Clegg: Just “get on with” Lords reform

From BBC News online:

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…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.”

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.”

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/28194 for Twitter and emails.

23 Comments

  • If we’re not careful, we could see a re-run of the AV fiasco, with rumour halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.

    “What Conservative MPs are angry about is that Nick Clegg’s Bill [will] create in effect a new House of Commons to be elected by proportional representation. Less than a year ago, the British people rejected PR in a referendum.” – Eleanor Laing, Tory MP for Epping Forest. That is plainly false, though it’s not clear whether she speaks from ignorance or malice. It reminds me of Cameron’s dishonest and deceitful speech against AV a year ago – and I worry that if we don’t tackle these lies, they will fester and spread.

    We should also be a bit more proactive in dismantling the foolish notion that if we have a referendum on Lords reform, we must also have one on Europe. Another red herring, designed to muddy the waters.

  • Hmm, have to say that I’ve changed my mind on the whole Lords reform proposal – I now think that if members of the ‘Lords’ (or whatever we’re going to call it) are elected, then they will expect to have more constitutional powers than the upper house has already. This would lead to the kind of bicameral gridlock which has bedevilled American politics over the decades. I’m not sure what the next step should be, but I cannot support making Parliament even less flexible and responsive than it is at the moment.

  • I see John Redwood also maintains the fiction that ‘the Bill may include electing the Lords by a system of proportional voting, so soon after the public decisively rejected such a voting system for the Commons’. I have yet to hear any Lib Dem rebuttal of this falsehood.

  • “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”.”

    It may be true that most people aren’t concerned about Lords reform, but the rest of this sounds dangerously like an argument that if the political parties are agreed about something it doesn’t matter what the electorate thinks.

    And is this the same Nick Clegg who advocated a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU – when of course all the political parties agreed that it should not?

  • Sid…. well what is the rebuttal?

  • Richard Shaw 23rd Apr '12 - 1:31pm

    The commonly-cited ‘problem’ of bicameralism in the US stems from the House of Representatives being controlled by a party different to the President, rather than it being the fault of having both the Senate and the House being elected or controlled by different parties. Most of the time both Houses are controlled by the same party, except most recently in 1981-1985, 2001 (Senate was 50/50) and 2010 to present. Bicameralism has not prevented the US from being a world superpower or getting things done where people can agree. A bit like our government at the moment…

    I don’t think having an Upper House will cause any constitutional crisis or threaten the supremacy of the Commons (assuming that’s a bad thing). A House elected in thirds for 15 year terms and whose members who represent larger regions *cannot* threaten the fresher mandate of constituency-level MPs. (Note: The US Senate is elected in thirds for 6 years).

    Even if the results of those staggered elections cause the House of Lords to have a different make-up to the lower house (causing what at most is inconvenience for the Government given the availability of the Parliament Act and existing conventions) then fantastic. I find that much preferable to a situation when the Government of the day bloats the Lords to their favour by appointing party pals. An elected Upper Chamber would be more independent from the executive and better able to fulfill its scrutiny role.

    (Joke alert: What do you call a defeated MP? Your Lordship.)

  • Richard Shaw 23rd Apr '12 - 1:38pm

    p.s. Forgot to mention The House of Representatives is wholly elected every two years. So by some coincidence the ratio of lower/upper house terms in the US (2/6) is the same as being proposed for the UK. (5/15).

  • “Given that well over 80% of the population voted for parties supporting an elected upper house, and polls show that only 5% of the public don’t want an elected upper house, I’d say that there’s already a democratic mandate for lords reform,”

    Well, as I pointed out above, at the time when the Lib Dems were calling for a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU, probably about 95% had voted for parties committed to Britain’s continued membership, so this is a strange argument coming from people who supported that Lib Dem position.

    But the point about the Lords is that there are all sorts of ways in which it could be reformed, and there really isn’t any consensus as to which is best, either among politicians or among the electorate. Take that opinion poll you’re quoting. Yes, only 5% were in favour of having no elected members at all in the Lords. But only 16% supported the option that is being proposed now (“a mostly elected chamber with a small number of appointed members”). The most popular choice – but still with only 33% support – was a fully elected chamber. 20% favoured half being elected and half appointed. 26% didn’t know. So you really need to be careful of quoting that poll as an endorsement of what’s being proposed.

    And the other thing about a referendum is that people can change their minds as they consider the arguments. You’ll remember that the early polls favoured a change to AV, whereas the result of the referendum was a landslide against.

    I think the argument against a referendum will actually be a very hard one for the Lib Dems to sustain. And if you are really confident that the electorate will support these proposals, I can’t understand why you don’t call your opponents’ bluff and agree to a referendum.

  • Based in Nick’s BBC interview, it is obvious that he has effectively tendered his resignation from the Liberal Democrat’s and hence the post of Deputy Prime Minster is now up for grabs!

    Yes there may be ” a consensus among the three main parties” that the Lords need to be reformed however there is no consensus on the exact form of that reform.

    Finally, “The principle that people who make the laws of the land should be elected by the laws of the land”, we already have as laws can only be passed if the relevant bill successfully transits the Commons; and last time I looked we elected
    people to the Commons.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '12 - 2:16pm

    It might help if the Liberal Democrats spent more time selling democracy – then people might better be got to see the value of reforms like an elected Lords and proportional representation. As I have said many times, the saddest thing about the AV referendum was so many people voted, in effect, to support the current electoral system in protest at what the current electoral system had delivered us.

    Most people in this country just don’t really understand democracy. They have come to think that politicians are by their very nature bad people. The very idea that mass political parties are how ordinary people can get together and govern themselves in their own interests has been forgotten. I find when I try to explain this to many people, and to almost anyone younger than myself (and I am past 50), they are actually astonished – it comes as a revelation to them, they just had no idea that this is how it is supposed to be and once to some extent was. They have come to suppose that political parties are just another of those big top-down organisations run by the elite for their own purposes. So, to them, a vote is like choosing to go to Tescos or Sainsburys – they might just admit it is a necessity, but it is not something they would ever take further. They would no more become active in a political party than they would voluntarily work for Tesco or Sainsbury for free. And, they regard not voting as a mark of an especially virtuous person, perhaps as we might regard someone who eschewed supermarkets and lived by self-sufficiency.

    To most people in this country now, democratic reforms seem irrelevant because democracy seems irrelevant. People might still suppose democracy to be a necessity, but not a necessity they like to think much about and something best left at arms-length. That is why so few care for what are vital reforms – even though those reforms would help solve some of the problems in our current democratic system they complain about.

    Our party has the word “Democrat” in it. I think we should campaign on that word, campaign to sell a new vision of democracy. Once upon a time we did start doing this, we called it “community politics”.

  • Tom – we didn’t have a vote on a PR system. We had a vote on AV.

  • Alex

    Well, in that case, in the immortal words of Basil Fawlty, “You’re rather stuck!”

  • I think a referendum should not be ruled out for two reasons:

    1. The coalition agreement stated that proposals will be brought forward. If they include a recommendation for a referendum,Tory MP’s will be able to say that as they are not being followed in full they do not have to support them.

    2. It’s very winnable…

  • I think Matthew Huntbach made a very good post.

    I am on the same page as him that we are missing a vision of how democracy should work in the UK in the future. What we see are piecemeal changes (AV/PR, HoL reform, elected mayors etc) which do not seem to link together in a coherent form. This was also my biggest criticism of moving ahead with changing the number of MPs etc without examining our democracy in total.

    It will not be a quick ix but at least there will be coherence that we can set out to the electorate.

    It would also help with a reengagement with politics if the electorate could see how their votes can make a difference. The biggest threat to our democracy is apathy – look at the participation in the democratic process. We are becoming an apolitical society due to the hegemony of big political parties which cannot even agree amongst themselves.

    I hesitate to ask for a Royal Commission on this due to the lack of progress from others but we need to do something – and it has to directly involve representatives of the electorate (picked by ballot from those who express an interest?) not just politicians

    One thing that is clear to me is that the status quo is indefensible but the piecemeal approach to reform may produce something worse as the status quo is known, has adapted to produce something that at least is coherent and people understand it.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '12 - 12:48am

    I guess the LibDems just can’t win! If we say “Just get on with it” we risk the charge of attempting to prevent people debating an important change. But if we insist on a referendum we’ll be seen as wasting time (and money) and not focussing the things that matter most, such as the financial and empolyment crises.

  • “On the other hand, polls show that the public are near unanimous in their support of lords reform. There’s a very big difference there.”

    As I have already pointed out, there are a lot of different ways in which the Lords can be reformed, and the opinion poll you yourself referred to says that only 16% favour the proposed option.

    Does 16% really amount to “near unanimity”?

  • “I guess the LibDems just can’t win! If we say “Just get on with it” we risk the charge of attempting to prevent people debating an important change. But if we insist on a referendum we’ll be seen as wasting time (and money) and not focussing the things that matter most, such as the financial and empolyment crises.”

    For heaven’s sake, all you need to say – if you really don’t think a referendum is required – is “We don’t think a referendum is required, and we wouldn’t be wasting time and money on one, but the opponents of reform have insisted on it.”

    But I still wish someone would explain why they think a referendum on changing the electoral system for the Commons was constitutionally appropriate, but a referendum on introducing an electoral system for the Lords isn’t.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Pollard 23rd Jul - 10:55pm
    Interesting than no one asked Ed about the Government decision to cave into the house builders and drop the 'zero energy' target for new homes...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 23rd Jul - 10:06pm
    @Alice Following Joe Otten's wise advice, I will say no more. Thanks for an illuminating experience.
  • User AvatarKerry Hutchinson 23rd Jul - 9:58pm
    I think Jonathan's piece strikes the right cautionary note. Of course freedom of speech does not entitle to indulge in racist or phobic remarks. But...
  • User AvatarSIMON BANKS 23rd Jul - 9:34pm
    Stuart - while I agree that a government is entitled perhaps not to ignore a million people marching, but to disagree with them, your memory...
  • User AvatarSIMON BANKS 23rd Jul - 9:26pm
    I don't think you can be right about 1939 as Edward VIII had abdicated by then and his younger brother had married before becoming king....
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 23rd Jul - 9:22pm
    I've just noticed Dave Page did make a comment about the article a few comments above, so I'm sorry for missing that out.