Clegg expects Labour fight over Lords reform

Peers are expected to fight hard against reform plans
Peers are expected to fight hard against reform plans

By Alex Stevenson

Nick Clegg looks to be adopting a combative approach as he gears up for a massive constitutional struggle over Lords reform next year.

The deputy prime minister used a speech at Demos to hit out at peers hiding behind a "veneer of expertise" which "can surely no longer serve as an alibi for a chamber which legislates on behalf of the people".

Mr Clegg wants to replace the appointed Lords with an elected second chamber. He told the Guardian that "we have got to get on with it" before announcing plans to introduce legislation pushing through the changes to parliament in next spring's Queen's Speech.

A committee of MPs and peers is already exploring some of the issues in draft form and is expected to report in the new year. That would pave the way for primary legislation in the biggest attempt to shake up parliament's second chamber in a century.

"There should be no doubt about our determination," Mr Clegg said, addressing speculation that Conservative enthusiasm for the project was virtually exhausted before it has even started.

"It was in the coalition agreement to do this. The prime minister has been very clear. George Osborne has been clear and the PM himself has said the will of the Commons will prevail."

The coalition is prepared to use the Parliament Act to force the changes through against the will of the upper House, which is bitterly opposed to the government's proposals.

Its task would be easier if MPs on all sides of the Commons backed the move. It now appears that is unlikely, with Labour thought to be unlikely to support an 80% elected second chamber.

"Labour is wasting its time trying to play monkey business to break this government," Mr Clegg added.

"It will not succeed, so it may as well do what it is thinks is right on Lords reform."

The opposition could support the alternative proposal made by ministers in their draft legislation of a 100% elected Lords.

"Labour used to be the party that was most forthright in its opposition to the bastion of privilege in the Lords," the deputy prime minister said.

"I hope they will rediscover that – rather than playing endless little games for short-term political advantage as they did at the time of the AV referendum."


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