Simon Hughes says that Lords reform is still on the Liberal Democrat agenda

The Financial Times website carries an article suggesting that senior Liberal Democrats are preparing to make the issue of Lords reform a deal breaker in any future coalition negotiations. It quotes Deputy Leader Simon Hughes as saying:

If the time did come for more coalition negotiations, the experience of coalition the first time will be clearly taken on board when we think through what we would do a second time. The constitutional reform agenda and particularly reform of the Lords would have to be a part of the package.

The article goes on to say that sources close to Nick Clegg approve of such an approach but one unnamed minister injects a note of caution by suggesting that we should concentrate on economic and social issues.

One idea being apparently discussed is a clause in the Coalition Agreement saying that no legislation can be enacted until Lords reform had been achieved.  The Voice is not sure quite how that would work, given that it would take a good year to get Lords reform legislation on the Statute Book, but it’s apparently being touted as the only way to get a coalition deal through a Liberal Democrat Special Conference.

The Voice is also curious as to how much priority readers would give to reforming the Lords and about what Conference representatives would be looking for in a future coalition agreement.

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  • The key is to present a constitutional package as a whole. Rather than voting reform, lords reform, boundaries, Recall of MPs (where has that one gone?) and inidividual voter registration , there should be a coherent package with a provision that none takes effect until all legislated for. I can’t see how an overall ‘Lords first’ clause would work, but it might have sharpened Tory minds on the HoL vote had the boundary review contained a ‘Lords before this’ clause.

    I feel we should play the long game on voting reform. I’d make STV for council elections the top priority, so people get more familiar with proportional voting systems. If we are doing a deal with the Tories again, they’ll be desperate for an EU referendum. I’d use STV for local elections (and LD freedom to campaign against EU withdrawal) as the price for the Tories to pay for their referendum – they want this so badly we can get something worthwhile the Tories won’t want. And with both bills saying that they don’t take effect until the other is passed.

  • The Lib Dems have done this before, AV referendum before fair votes. The Lib Dems got what they wanted then reneged on the rest of the deal so why would any party trust them to deliver if they tried this wease again?

  • The Lords are an affront to democracy and must go. To say that the economy is more important shows contempt for freedom. After all are out politicians not capable of doing more than one thing at once?

  • Whatever are you on about Dean? At first I thought it might be boundaries reform and Lords reform, but those two clearly hit the buffers together so it has to be something else.

  • tpkfar,

    that sounds like a sensible approach, but I do agree with the unnamed minister who injects a note of caution by suggesting that we should concentrate on deliverable solutions for economic and social issues and not get sidetracked on political positiioning for potential colalition deals.

    There is no great clamour for constitutional reform of the UK parliament . The powers of the devolved assemblies and reforms of our relationship with the European Union are more urgent matters.

    Labour will not want to entertain boundary reforms and it would be unseemly to make Libdem electoral policy contingent on which of the two largest parties happens to secure the greater number of seats in the next election. Reform of the House of Lords and the parliamentary electoral sysyem can wait until the British public are more ready for it.

  • A rethink of Lords’ reform is clearly needed; Nick Clegg has done well to rebuff the dreadful David Steel approach of tinkering with the indefensible. The lost Lords’ reform of this parliament was a strange compromise, a kind of lowest common denominator approach that the lowest common denominator refused to support. A more radical 100% elected house with more frequent rolling elections (every 2 years?) would be my preference, with renewable (6 year?) terms.

    I would also like to see the possibility to co-opt non voting specialists who would be able to speak in the House and serve on committees on issues that relate directly to their specialities.

    Sadly electoral reform of the Commons is dead for a while, but legislating to allow local councils to take up proportional representation, would be a positive move.

  • No party can entirely duck the question of demographic shifts and disparities between the size of constituencies. I think the key is to drop the policy of reducing the numbers in the Commons: this could only have made sense in conjunction with a more representative voting system.

  • Denis Mollison: my thinking was to avoid the ‘top down’ approach. Nor do I see any necessity in your binary choice of do it or forget about it. Can you explain why local councils should not be empowered to decide how representation takes place?

  • Paul McKeown 15th Apr '13 - 10:57pm

    Just stuff them full of Conservative and Liberal Democrat cronies, bag carriers and apparatchiks to balance the numbers. Then when Labour get in they will have to stuff em with even more cronies, bag carriers and apparatchiks to even up the numbers even further. Then when the compass swings again, well you’ve got the idea. Expose the absurdity at the heart of Tony Blair’s House of Cronies Reform: eventually they will have to do the job right. They’ll probably have a couple of thousand peers by then, the more the merrier!

  • Whatever we decide to put in the Manifesto it should have a great deal of flexibility because we dont know how well we will do. We already know that both our rivals will be badly split but we dont know how badly.
    Lets stay flexible & be prepared to demand as much as we can get, now we have established that Coalition works we can be much tougher in the next negotiations.

  • Geoffrey Payne 16th Apr '13 - 12:54pm

    I think we can say this is a deal breaker in the sense that there is a lot of support for House of Lords reform and it is petty party politics from both Labour and the Tories that stops it from happening.
    However it is not the most important issue in the world. I would say that a far more committed approach is needed to tackle climate change and poverty are more important issues that ought to be deal breakers.

  • David Evans 16th Apr '13 - 3:10pm

    “If the time did come for more coalition negotiations …” After the disaster of this coalition? In whose lifetime?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 17th Apr '13 - 9:08pm

    It is ironic that if we are to save the Equality Act from being made worthless by the Tories amendments, then it will be our unelected, but far more aware Peers who will have pulled this off, by rebelling and pulling the Party back towards its true core values.

  • So we’re going to lead our 2015 campaign with a grand promise to the nation: To block all government action, for a good year or more, until we have scrapped the House of Lords and replaced it with something more favourable to our own Party.

    We won’t even need that taxi after the election, will we?

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