British Labour politician, leader of the opposition in the House of Lords 1992–97, Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Lords 1997–98. A former European commissioner 1981–85, Richard had a long history in the Labour Party before being elevated to the Lords under the Conservative government in 1990, having won his first election for Labour in 1964. Although he had not attracted great criticism as leader in the Lords, Richard was sacked in Prime Minister Blair's July 1998 Cabinet reshuffle, and was succeeded by Baroness Jay.
As leader of the opposition in the House of Lords Richard was spokesperson on a number areas, including the civil service (1992–97) and European affairs (1992–97), and was seen as a Labour veteran committed to his party's policies. During his leadership in the Lords, peers had challenged the government 30 times – most crucially over plans to reform student finances and to reduce the age of consent for homosexuals to 16. Before being replaced in 1998, Richard had been trying to push forward the government's plans for reform of the House of Lords, attempting to foster agreement between Labour and Conservatives on the issue. As peers showed stirrings of rebellion, Richard was sacked in a surprise move in Prime Minister Blair's reshuffle. It was thought the prime minister wanted a younger, more ‘Blairite’ leader in the Lords, who could push forward reforms and keep Labour peers in line. The government was determined to press ahead with its manifesto commitment to abolish hereditary peers' voting rights.
Days after he was sacked in July 1998, Richard cast doubt on Labour's plans to reform the upper chamber, stating he believed the prime minister was unsure how to proceed with the reform beyond removing the voting rights of hereditary peers, and feared that the government lacked commitment to press ahead with radical reform. He also stated that he would set up a royal commission to consider what steps should be taken after hereditary peers were removed. Richard's comments caused some alarm and dismay among Labour campaigners for an elected upper house.
Called to the Bar in 1955, Richard practised law in London until 1974, while serving as a Labour MP (1964–74). He served as parliamentary under-secretary of state in the ministry of defence 1969–70???, and as deputy spokesperson on foreign affairs 1971–74. Richard took up the post of UK permanent representative to the United Nations (1974–79), and was appointed European commissioner in 1981. At the end of his four-year term as European commissioner, he was appointed chair of the World Trade Centre Wales Ltd, a position he continued to hold until 1997.
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