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."


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

    Comment number 825.

    Maybe the anachronism of an unelected head of state should be abolished, before reforming the lords.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    Nick Clegg is a disgrace. Each political party should vote for what they believe is in the best interest of the country. He has changed the direction in which his party will vote based on a prior agreement, not on what is best for the country. His Lords reform idea is the wrong thing at the wrong time, as is changing the boundaries, but changing your vote to get revenge is pathetic.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 822.

    Did I hear right on the BBC News tonight - I'm sure George Osbourne said, in relation to the House of Lords debate, his party would concentrate "110%" - he's the chancellor?

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Ok let's have an election, you lot decide to vote out the Tories, labour win and reverse the decisions of the torys and carry on spending, economy grows at 1% because of public sector spending, but debt rises to 1.5tn. Money markets allow more borrowing but at higher interest 7%. Interest on debt gets bigger than deficit, cant borrow more, cut like spain unemployment rises to 20%. Who is right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    Is there an Olympic event for incompetency? If yes team GB government is a cert for gold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    Oh dear, we're upsetting the yanks with our skanky banks.
    Bit rich coming from them but further evidence of the state of decay within the London financial centre.
    Wonder if Sham will be forced to start pretending to do something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    The Public should vote in the HoL and only from a list of independents. The HoL has evolved into a majority representation of whichever Party is in Government. Hence the Conservative rush to get their own sympathisers and Party followers into the HoL, Tony Blair saturated the place over 13 years, hence the rush over the last 2 years. HoL needs reform but not through bad legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    What a weak-willed sap this lap dog has turned out to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Clegg shows himself to be one who'll sacrifice principle for playground-style tit-for-tat, and unfit for leadership or responsibility. Even so, he must know that bringing down the coalition (or provoking the Conservatives to do so) would guarantee that LibDems would never again get a toehold in government. Unless of course he's also a fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    "Not much left of the Liberal manifesto really, is there? They could have had the lot if they had joined with Labour"

    There would have been nothing for anyone if Labour had not been removed from office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Never mind Nick, it could have been something important, but this is trivial mate! Keep calm and carry on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    The only thing you'll be remembered for Clegg is NHS privatisation and far-right politics which have left millions in despair. As long as the libs keep propping up bizarre Tory policies, we don't stand a chance of rescuing the economy. Austerity has not worked, even the IMF finally admit it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.
    This video says all you need to know about Cameron and Clegg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    Pretty much a non story in silly season, which has been misreported. Never mind, Auntie Beeb never misses an opportunity to give the tories a kicking, even if the story is factually incorrect. There is NOTHING in the coalition agreement tying Boundary changes to HoL reform. It was tied to the AV referendum. Telling the story any other way is purely and simply Bulldust. And BBC, you are guilty too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    781 Subject to a motion of confidence within 14 days, the Libdems can vote against /for /against/for into perpetuity given turkeys don't vote for Xmas, they can do nothing else, that was the point of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    Can't help but feel slightly relieved it's been abandoned. I'm all for Lords reform, but surely the whole point of two debating chambers is that they have different perspectives and priorities - there is absolutely no point in creating a second House of Commons, anything too similar I fear would eventually lead to it disappearing - a very worrying situation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    Oh, just one final thought for all of you who are claiming it's OK for the Tories to reject Lords reform because the coalition agreement said they never had to vote for it.

    Neither did the agreement say the Lib Dems had to vote for equalising the size of constituencies, only that the AV referendum bill would contain these provisions.

    So either both parties broke the agreement or neither did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    Glad to see the Lib Dems are concentrating on the important issues, we have the worst financial crisis since 1920's. Lets sort this out before we sort anything else you idiot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    The Lords reform is flawed in that the party's will still put in there own crowd.Let the public decide as in general elections and vote in the Lords for five years .


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