Clegg in battle over House of Lords reform

Plans by Nick Clegg to reform the Lords were dealt a blow when he had a private meeting with peers to discuss sweeping changes to the way they are elected.

Plans by Nick Clegg to reform the House of Lords were dealt a blow yesterday when he had a private meeting with peers to discuss sweeping changes to the way they are elected. In what have been described as “acrimonious” clashes with peers, the deputy prime minister was told that his proposals would be fought every step of the way in what is known to be one of his key policy proposals.

The proposals would create a House of Lords where 80 per cent of the peers are elected under the proportional STV (Single Transferable Vote), which would help the Liberal Democrats and other smaller parties due to its proportional nature.

Clegg had previously called for a completely elected chamber, however under coalition negotiations has had to compromise, while David Cameron once described House of Lords reform as a “third-term issue'”.

However, in a speech in May, Mr Clegg showed that reform of the chamber would be a key issue in a coalition government, describing it as:

“The biggest shake-up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes.”

Although deep divisions remain within the Conservative party over the issue the Lib Dem slump in the polls may have forced the prime minister into giving concessions to Clegg on what is often seen as a traditionally Liberal issue – though the reform effort has come under fire from parliamentarians on all sides.

Labour Peer Lord Bilimoria argued that, in what would be an elected ‘senate’, there was no need for the Lords to challenge the supremacy of the Commons. This was an issue echoed by Tory MP for Harwich and North Essex Bernard Jenkins, who argued the moves could “paralyse” the coalition as his party were fundamentally against the move.

The idea of an elected House of Lords will help Mr Clegg gain plaudits from some of his more progressive supporters whom he may have lost over tuition fees and the VAT rise. Furthermore, if Clegg is to win the referendum on the alternative vote in May and usher in a key Liberal Democrat policy goal then he may be able to campaign at the next general election under the banner of a reformer.

But if he wants to win this battle to create a more accountable House of Lords he may be come up from stiff opposition not just from the chamber he wishes to reform, but from inside his own too.

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14 Responses to “Clegg in battle over House of Lords reform”


    Clegg in battle over House of Lords reform: – too little, too late. WGAF?


    Clegg in battle over House of Lords reform: – too little, too late. WGAF?

  3. Marcus A. Roberts

    RT @leftfootfwd: Clegg in battle over House of Lords reform: writes @ChrisTarquini

  4. Anon E Mouse

    After waiting 13 years for the last Labour government and their “Lords Reform” anything is better than that.

    Go Nick…

  5. Lee Hyde

    I am incredibly sceptical of any attempt to democratise the House of Lords. There’s no doubting that the House of Lords needs reform, but it should be towards a more meritocratic (not democratic) an accountable upper chamber.

    Do correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the purpose of an upper chamber in a modern bicameral system to provide intelligent and reasoned oversight of government policy? That cannot be achieved through elections, as politicians are rhetoricians not philosophers; they cannot be expected to be experts in any field.

    If we democratise the House of Lords, we turn it into a mere annex of the House of Commons, and we may as well switch to a unicameral legislative system and save ourselves the expense of an upper chamber altogether.

    By all means, instigate a citizens right to dismiss (through petition) a Lord/Senator. Bring forward legislature allowing the dismissal of convicted criminals (we all know who I’m talking about). Hand off responsibility for appointing/dismissing Lords/Senators to an independent public body and eliminate party politics from the upper chamber. But for the love of God (and I’m an atheist), don’t turn the House of Lords into a clone of our corrupt House of Commons!

  6. Daniel Rees

    The Lords have no right to block form. There has been extensive debate in the Commons and there is an all party consensus for at least 80% elected members (which seems to be a ‘miserable little compromise’ to me).

    It is a manifesto commitment of all parties – surely Clegg can invoke the Salisbury convention?

  7. Lee Hyde

    The Lords have every right to block reform, and if they have genuine concerns (beyond those for their own jobs) they should block reform. I suspect that even if the Lords have a genuine case for blocking this reform, The Commons will simply invoke the Parliament Act and sidestep them however.

    The tradition of the House of Lords to not challenge manifesto pledges and money bills is just that, a tradition. It is more a courtesy, and I’d rather they be discourteous than allow the formation of a puppet upper chamber unable to provide intelligent an reasoned oversight!

    Do yourself a favour, and switch over to BBC Parliament the next time the House of Lords is on air. There’s none of the childish witticisms and mind numbing rhetoric inherent to the House of Commons. Do we really want to scrap such a reasoned body with another corrupt shouting house?

  8. John Ruddy

    Am I right in thinking that a majority of the cabinet voted for 100% elected house of lords ni the last parliament?

  9. Ian

    Cameron has no intention of reforming the House of Lords, so he is happy for Clegg to press ahead as he knows he is ineffectual, carries no clout and will fail miserably!

  10. Mr. Sensible

    Lee, the reasons you sight are why I oppose such a measure.

    If we want the upper house to remain a revising chamber, this is something which cannot happen with party politics playing a central role, as it will with an elected chamber.

    I think we need to get rid of the harreditary principle, but I am totally opposed to electing the Lords.

  11. Bill

    I also agree with not fully democratising the house of lords. 80% elected with STV would (arguably) give the lords more of a mandate than the commons.
    Why not allow professional bodies (e.g. BMA, Engineering council, Bar council) or perhaps their (professional bodies) members elect lords from their members. This would give an independant way of getting the expertise.
    Perhaps a minority could be elected STV. These would:
    a) decide the on the ratios of professionals/which professional bodies elected
    b) interview/vet candidates elected by professional bodies
    c) Be the bridge between party politics and professionals.

  12. Daniel Pitt

    RT @leftfootfwd: Clegg in battle over House of Lords reform: writes @ChrisTarquini

  13. Jonathan Crewdson

    Just a technical point: reform of the Lords requires constitutional legislation, not primary, and the Parliament Act only covers primary legislation so there is no legal mechanism by which the Government can force through reform if peers resolve to block it. If you don’t believe me see the summary of the Court of Appeal over whether the Parliament Act was ever passed properly anyway re. the banning fox hunting legislation. The judge presiding said it was but the Parliament Act only applied to primary legislation. The Government complained the judgement had implications for the then Labour administration’s constitutional reform programme.

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