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."
At 08:44:54 in SportFormer world number one Luke Donald enhanced his bid for a first title since 2012 as a 66 put him two ahead after three rounds of the RBC Heritage.
At 08:40:49 in EnglandThe Royal Navy patrol vessel, HMS Dasher, will visit her twinned town in Cornwall later for a short stay.
At 08:10:40 in EnglandTwo illegal raves have been stopped from going ahead in Devon after police were alerted by members of the public.
At 06:58:11 in HeadlinesFour French journalists have arrived back in France after their release from 10 months of captivity in Syria, Agence France Presse reports.
At 05:51:11 in HeadlinesThe Easter break offers no break from the political spotlight for those hoping to win over voters in the general election in 13 months' time - at least judging from Easter Sunday's newspapers.
At 05:27:39 in EnglandThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have marked Easter Sunday by attending a church service in Sydney.
At 04:49:43 in HeadlinesFamilies of passengers on a sunken South Korean ferry have protested angrily over the rescue operation.
At 04:24:57 in HeadlinesA businessman appointed by the prime minister to head a quango managing public funds has resigned after reports that he had been declared bankrupt.
At 02:44:02 in HeadlinesOrthodox Easter messages from patriarchs in Kiev and Moscow have highlighted the deep division in Ukraine, where a tense stand-off is continuing in the east.
At 02:25:05 in HeadlinesIslamic extremism is the "most deadly" threat to charities in England and Wales, the Charity Commission has said.
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 20th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
The Royal Navy patrol vessel, HMS Dasher, will visit her twinned town in Cornwall later for a short stay.
Former world number one Luke Donald enhanced his bid for a first title since 2012 as a 66 put him two ahead after three rounds of the RBC Heritage.
Four French journalists have arrived back in France after their release from 10 months of captivity in Syria, Agence France Presse reports.
Two men have been seriously injured in a crash involving a motorcycle and a truck towing a boat in Ceredigion.
Millions of people dream of starting their own company, but only some are brave enough to take the leap.
BBC Two is celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sunday, 20 April, having been home to many landmark programmes over the decades.