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  Words in the News
  BBC political correspondent Jon Devitt reported on the end of the House of Lords, Britain's Upper Chamber. Hundreds of hereditary peers lost the right to sit and vote in Parliament following an historic vote to end the 700 year old hereditary system.
  Audio Listen to the report in full

28th October 1999

End of hereditary peers

NEWS 1   Britain’s House of Lords has been described as the best club in London and for many of the hereditary members who rarely attend debates, that’s just what it is. A convivial place with good subsidised bars and restaurants and free car-parking in the centre of the capital city. The hereditaries have, for the most part, accepted that their time is up. Few these days will defend the principle of having power by virtue of birthright. The Government hasn’t yet concluded which system it considers to be better. But, in the meantime, has decided to take away the powers of all but ninety-two of the hereditary members.

House of Lords: the British Parliament's upper chamber which includes hereditary peers (nobles) and life peers as well as bishops

best club in London: this is a reference to the many exclusive establishments to which men - and sometimes women these days - can go for all sorts of reasons: to have a good meal, read newspapers, exchange ideas or opinions or to play cards

hereditary members: peers (nobles) who have inherited their titles and as a result have rights to sit and vote in the House of Lords

convivial: friendly, a pleasant place to be in

subsidised: if something is subsidised, it is partly paid for; in this case by the Government

their time is up: a way of saying the good times are over, it's the end of an era

by virtue of birthright: because of the family someone has been born into

in the meantime: until a new system has been decided upon

all but: the but here means except

NEWS 2   The concession to give a small number a temporary reprieve was designed to ensure that the rest wouldn’t make trouble. So as the legislation reaches its final stages, the Government is hoping the hereditaries will go quietly without dragging out the debate or introducing time-consuming amendments.

concession: a concession is something that you let someone have or do

temporary reprieve: a short unexpected delay

make trouble: to cause problems

dragging out: making something last longer than necessary

amendments: changes

time-consuming: something which takes a long time to do

    Read about the background in BBC News Online

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