Sneaky Lord President of the Council pushes for Lords reform
Get on with Lords reform straight away, says Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg said there was no need for a referendum
22 April 2012 Last updated at 15:23
Nick Clegg has urged politicians from all parties to “get on with” reforming the House of Lords, despite disquiet among Conservative MPs over the plans.
A report on Monday is expected to recommend that Parliament’s second chamber becomes a mostly elected body.
Mr Clegg told the BBC the idea was “uncontroversial” among voters.
But some Tory MPs argue it is not a priority; Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the Lib Dems had “determined” the pace of reform efforts.
The all-party Joint Committee on Lords Reform, made up of peers and MPs, is due to publish a report on Monday setting out its recommendations for reform.
It is expected to call for an 80% elected chamber, where members serve non-renewable 15-year terms. They would also receive a salary of around £50,000 a year, rather than the existing attendance allowance.
Labour supports introducing elected peers – which all three main parties advocated in their 2010 general election manifestos – but is calling for a referendum before the changes go through.
In an interview with BBC One’s Sunday Politics, Mr Clegg said: “The principle that people who make the laws of the land should be elected by the laws of the land would strike most people in the country as fairly uncontroversial.
“It’s something we have been talking about for 100 years. We should just get on with it now, with minimum fuss.”
“Our priority is rescuing the economy but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do other things like putting a smidgeon of democracy into the House of Lords.”
Of the referendum proposal, he said: “Why is it that we should spend a great deal of money asking the British people a question that frankly most people don’t worry about very much and one on which there’s a consensus among the three main parties?”
He added that last year’s referendum, on replacing the first-past-the-post Westminster elections with an “alternative vote” system, had been different, as on that issue there had been “a very stark difference of opinion between the parties”.
Questioned on the state of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, Mr Clegg replied: “We haven’t indulged in tit-for-tat selective choices about which part of the coalition agreement that we will fulfil…
“I would say to all people from all sides of the coalition government to give their support.”
Ministers want to introduce a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber and the Lib Dems want firm proposals to be in next month’s Queen’s Speech.
The prime minister has pledged to see the changes through; they are part of the coalition agreement.
Seventy current Conservative MPs voted against the option of an 80% elected chamber in 2007 and it is thought that just one Tory MP backed the proposals at a backbench meeting on Thursday.
Backbench Conservative Mark Pritchard told Sunday Politics: “The question is whether this is really a priority when the country is just about tip-toeing out of recession.”
He added: “It would be very difficult for Nick Clegg and the prime minister to go to the country with a referendum on House of Lords reform and, at the same time, deny a referendum on the European question… That’s a real headache for the government.”
However, Mr Clarke told Sky News: “The existing House of Lords is a curious historical anomaly. We are ready for democracy, I think. All three political parties were in favour of House of Lords reform in their last manifestos.”
Mark Pritchard says reform of the House of Lords is no priority for a country ‘tiptoeing out of recession’
But he added: “The Liberals probably have determined the timing. I think doing it now in this parliament has happened because the Liberals are anxious to get on with it.”
Mr Clarke said there had always been a “minority” in the Commons opposed to an elected Lords, for “various reasons”.
He added that he hoped no Tory MPs wanted to oppose reform and were “suddenly against it because they think it is a Lib Dem thing. It isn’t – it’s an all-party thing.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he backed the idea that there should be a referendum on the proposed changes.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said this should happen as Lords reform would be a “major constitutional change”.
He added: “Our manifesto was quite clear: let the people decide. Where there’s major constitutional change of this kind, it’s right and proper for the people to decide whether it goes through or not.”