Get on with Lords reform straight away, says Nick Clegg
Published: 22nd Apr 2012 15:23:45
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 an 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."
I think doing it now in this parliament has happened because the Liberals are anxious to get on with it”
"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."
On 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 which 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 the 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."
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."
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Get on with Lords reform straight away, says Nick Clegg [Online] (Updated 22nd Apr 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1423881/Get-on-with-Lords-reform-straight-away-says-Nick-Clegg [Accessed 10th Mar 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
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