UK's Labour vows overhaul of parliament upper chamber if it wins power

Britain's Starmer expected to launch Labour party manifesto

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Britain's opposition Labour Party, which is currently way ahead in opinion polls before an election next month, said it would reform parliament's upper chamber to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords.

The grand, centuries-old ornate red and gold chamber in the Palace of Westminster currently has about 800 members, whose places are obtained by arcane rules.

Most are appointed by the prime minister after being nominated for a life peerage by political parties or recommended by an appointments committee, but it also includes Church of England bishops and some by right of their aristocratic birth.

The are currently 92 hereditary peers.

While the upper chamber has much less power than the elected House of Commons after reforms in 1911, there have long been calls for an overhaul of the current system, with criticism the appointments' system leads to cronyism.

There were questions asked when former Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed one of his former aides as the Lords' youngest member aged 30.

In its manifesto, the document outlining the policies it would enact in government, Labour said it would start "immediate modernisation" by legislating to remove hereditary peers and for a mandatory retirement age of 80.

"Labour will ensure all peers meet the high standards the public expect of them, and we will introduce a new participation requirement as well as strengthening the circumstances in which disgraced members can be removed," the manifesto said.

The party said its proposals would be an improvement, but it was committed to "replacing the House of Lords with an alternative second chamber that is more representative of the regions and nations", and would consult on proposals.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, writing by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Sandle)