Lords U-turn on agenda at Lib Dem party conference
Liberal Democrats are being given an opportunity to have their say on the coalition's U-turn on an elected House of Lords at their party conference.
Activists will be asked next month to vote on a motion describing the Lords as a democratic "outrage" and a "stain" on Britain's ability to "preach the values of open government" elsewhere.
Plans for electing members were dropped amid opposition from Conservative MPs.
Critics said the plans were flawed and would cause conflict with the Commons.Months of wrangling
The issue has led to tensions at the top of government with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg saying Prime Minister David Cameron's inability to carry his MPs on the issue is a breach of the coalition agreement between their respective parties.
Mr Clegg admitted defeat over plans to elect 80% of Lords by 2025 after Conservative backbenchers combined with Labour to slow their passage through Parliament, making future progress unlikely.
David Cameron, who had been committed to the proposals, said they were being withdrawn to prevent months of wrangling and to allow the coalition to focus on the UK's economic recovery.
In response, the Lib Dems say they will oppose Tory-backed change to Commons boundaries in time for the 2015 election.
Lib Dem activists will discuss the coalition's climbdown and the future of the Lords at their annual gathering in Brighton, the first of three main Westminster autumn conferences.'Established principle'
The motion to be debated, published along with the rest of the conference agenda, states that constitutional reform was a "major basis" for the party's participation in the coalition.
2012 CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
- Green Party (Bristol: 7-10 September)
- Plaid Cymru (Brecon: 13-15 September)
- UK Independence Party (Birmingham 22-23 September)
- Lib Dems (Brighton: 22-26 September)
- Labour (Manchester: 30 September - 4 October)
- Conservatives (Birmingham: 7-10 October)
- SNP (Perth: 18-21 October)
It calls on the government to deliver on an elected Lords by 2015, saying the principle that those who make the law should be chosen by the public is "well-established" across the world.
"The remaining presence in Britain in 2012 of a chamber with the authority to change the law which does not respect this principle is a standing outrage," it says.
It also claims an appointed Lords is "an ongoing stain on Britain's ability to preach the values of open, transparent and accountable government to the rest of the world".
It suggests these views are "highly and enduringly popular" with the British public.'Useful work'
While it commends the "useful work" of the Lords as a whole and individual peers in improving legislation, it says this cannot be used to justify the body's continued existence in its current form.
And it urges all Lib Dem peers to "support a principle which has been at the heart of Liberal policy" for more than 100 years.
Several Lib Dem members of the Upper House have been critical of the coalition's blueprint, Lord Carlile calling it "ill-thought out".
The conference motion is being tabled by Jeremy Hargreaves, a close ally of Mr Clegg's who is vice-chairman of the party's policy-making body.
It makes no mention of separate proposals put forward by Lib Dem peer Lord Steel to enable peers to retire or to be expelled for non-attendance or imprisonable sentences of more than a year.