Nick Clegg: Lords reform plans to be abandoned

 

Nick Clegg: "The Conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform"

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Plans to reform the House of Lords are being abandoned after Conservatives "broke the coalition contract", Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has announced.

Agreement on an elected Lords could not be reached with Tory opponents, he said, and the plans would be shelved rather than face a "slow death".

As a result, he said Lib Dem MPs could not now support Conservative-driven changes to Commons boundaries in 2015.

Labour said the Lords climbdown was a "humiliation" for the coalition.

Changes to the make-up of the Lords would have seen 80% of peers elected and the total number of members halved to 450.

An elected Lords is a long-cherished goal of the Lib Dems but one opposed by many Conservatives - more than 90 of whom defied the government in a vote on the issue in July.

The deputy prime minister said he was "disappointed" to have to give way, adding that he had offered his Conservative partners a referendum on the issue in 2015 as part of a compromise deal but this had been rejected.

He said the Conservatives could not take a "pick and choose" approach to the coalition agreement - which committed the government to bringing forward proposals for a wholly or largely elected body.

'Mutual respect'

Start Quote

We have not been able to proceed on Lords reform, frankly, because there is opposition in Parliament and the opportunism of the Labour Party”

End Quote George Osborne Chancellor

To make sure the contract remained "balanced" the Lib Dems now want to delay proposals to reduce the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 MPs and to redraw parliamentary boundaries - thought likely to favour the Conservatives - until after the 2015 election.

While he was still committed to keeping the coalition going, Mr Clegg said it was a "reciprocal arrangement" and could only work if it was based on "mutual respect".

"The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken," he said.

"Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement."

'Weakness'

Although proposals to make constituencies roughly the same size have already been approved in principle by MPs, they require a further vote on their implementation in time for the next election.

Mr Clegg added: "I have told the prime minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them."

Start Quote

There is now a definite air of tit-for-tat around the coalition”

End Quote

Chancellor George Osborne said MPs would consider the matter next year and the government would "cross any issues with the boundary vote when we get to them".

Mr Osborne insisted the coalition was strong and the government would use the parliamentary time freed up by the withdrawal of the Lords plans to put forward proposals on jobs and growth.

"We have not been able to proceed on Lords reform, frankly, because there is opposition in Parliament and the opportunism of the Labour Party," he said.

"I think we have got to use this moment as an opportunity to focus 110% on the economy - which is what the country wants."

In his press conference, Mr Clegg also criticised Labour for their approach to Lords reform, saying they were "supporting the ends, but - when push comes to shove - obstructing the means".

The opposition joined Conservative rebels in voting against a motion which would have set a timetable for debating the proposals - arguing they were not being given enough scrutiny.

'Overwhelming opposition'

Start Quote

Today's humiliation for the Government is a spectacular failure of leadership from David Cameron”

End Quote Sadiq Khan Shadow justice secretary

Labour said it was "outrageous" for Mr Clegg to try to blame them - suggesting it was the Conservatives who had "never been serious about reform".

"Today's humiliation for the Government is a spectacular failure of leadership from David Cameron," said shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan.

"David Cameron's weakness in not being able to control his own party and deliver on the coalition agreement shows a prime minister lacking the leadership our country deserves."

The prime minister told Tory MPs last month he would make "one more try" to push Lords reform through in September when the Commons returned from its summer recess.

Conservative MP John Whittingdale said there was "overwhelming opposition" in the party to an elected Lords and Nick Clegg "just had to accept that reality".

Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood said the Conservatives "had become the G4S of British politics" and had "failed to deliver" - a reference to the firm involved in a row about security ahead of the Olympics.

But the BBC's political correspondent Carole Walker said when Mr Clegg appeared before a committee of MPs earlier this year, he said there was no link between Lords reform and boundary changes.

 

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  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 823.

    I would like to remind Nick Clegg it isn't just the Tories who "break contracts" and "don't honour commitments". He and the Lib Dems promised not to allow an increase in tuition fees for students. He even signed his name on the pledge.

    So that's the whole coalition government who don't keep their word.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 736.

    Sorry Clegg your party and your views are lost like tears in the rain. Your party is nothing more than a row of seats on the right side of the chamber. Your vacuous ideas about Lords reform so no depth of thought or reflection of public opinion. The desperation to sit in the corridors of power has destroyed all the progress made by the LibDem party.

  • rate this
    -24

    Comment number 528.

    Come on Nick and Dave, kiss and make up! We cannot afford another election with the electorate giving in and electing the Labour party! We are in the mire enough as it is! Miliband and co do not cut the mustard on integrity or any other criteria that we need now!
    Ted Heath went to the country and they bottled it only to come to their senses later, let's not have a repeat, jeepers it is costly!

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 379.

    Nil out of ten. The three flagship Lib-Dem policies of PR, Lords reform and student loans. All disappeared without trace. And they have also managed to completely alienate their natural supporters. I don’t think Cleggy and Co could have got it more wrong.

  • rate this
    +90

    Comment number 98.

    Looks like Clegg is talking to himself.
    Reform of the Lords is important but the last thing we need is another pack of almost unsackable party hacks put in place to toe the party line, courtesy of the LibDems dream of life after their death.
    Let's remember c.80% of the Lords are already party appointed.
    There are many more vital & urgent issues.
    And let's have referendum please.

 

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