Sir Bill Morris is one of Handsworth's most famous sons.

Set to receive a peerage three years after being awarded a knighthood, he will continue to speak his mind, and believes recent scandals have made reforms of the House of Lords essential, as he told Political Editor Jonathan Walker...

It's been a long journey for Lord Morris (pictured), as he will soon be known.

In 1954 he arrived in Handsworth, and found work at Hardy Spicer Engineering Ltd, a local firm.

By 1992 he was general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, a post he held for 11 years.

But he was surprised to be offered a post in the House of Lords.

He said: "If you look back at my record I have not always been the most compliant in terms of trade union leaders.

"A peerage was the last thing I expected. But I was delighted."

He will sit on the Labour benches - but cannot promise to always toe the line, he said.

"I have always worked on the basis that the Government needs to make its case. It needs to convince people.

"I have supported the Government when it gets things right, and when it got things wrong I said so.

"It is the same Bill Morris. I have aged a bit, I have quite a few grey hairs, but my views haven't changed."

Lord Morris was the first black leader of a trade union, and a recent survey placed him in the top ten black Britons of all time.

His appointment would help make Parliament more representative of Britain as a whole but there is still more to do, he said.

"There is a recognition that the House of Lords, as with all other institutions, needs to be more representative of the UK as it is today.

"That means more women, and more ethnic minorities.

"When Bill Clinton was forming his first administration as US President he introduced the Clinton doctrine. He said he wanted his Govern-ment to look like America.

"I firmly believe that all British institutions should look like the UK.

"I think my appointment, and one or two of the others, will make some progress towards that."

Today's peerages were due to be announced shortly after last May's General Election, but were delayed after five nominees were rejected by an independent watchdog.

It emerged that four businessmen nominated for a seat in the House of Lords had made secret loans to the Labour Party totalling at least #4.5 million.

Six years ago, Lord Morris was a member of a Royal Commission which looked into the options for reforming the House of Lords and concluded that some peers should be elected, while others should be chosen by an independent panel instead of party leaders.

The recent controversies mean the Government should consider the recommendations again, he said.

"Our report is now an idea whose time has come.

"I would like to think that some of the principles we formulated could be examined in order to bring the House of Lords up to a modern institution in a modern age.

"The debate which has raged in the last few weeks has a positive benefit, because it has forced people to go to the drawing board."

But, whatever changes have taken place in his life, one thing has remained the same - his love for Birmingham. "I'm hardly out of the place. I don't live in Birmingham any more but it is my home. I have a lot of friends and family there."