UK & World News
Lords Reform: Lib Dems Threaten Tories
The Liberal Democrats have threatened to block boundary changes if plans for an elected House of Lords are killed off by the Conservatives.
Richard Reeves, a senior aide to Nick Clegg, warned there would be "broader consequences" for the coalition if it fails to win a crucial vote on Lords reform next week.
Up to 100 Conservative backbenchers could object to the Deputy Prime Minister's plans for a mainly-elected upper chamber, in what would be the biggest revolt in the party's history.
Tories deeply against the proposals are threatening to combine with Labour to defeat a programme motion designed to cut short debate on the legislation in the Commons.
The motion, which will be put to the vote on Tuesday, outlines a timetable which is aimed at making sure the Bill proceeds through Parliament.
The Lib Dems believe there will only be a tiny chance of the reforms becoming law if it is defeated because opponents will then be free to make lengthy speeches in a bid to kill the measures.
Mr Reeves, in an interview with The Independent as he stepped down as Mr Clegg's director of strategy, said that without the time limit the chances of the Bill reaching the Statute Book are "vanishingly small".
He made clear, if that happened, the Lib Dems would block plans to redraw parliamentary boundaries and slash MP levels from 650 to 600 - a move which could cost the Tories an extra 20 seats at the next general election.
"It is a very serious moment for the Government," Mr Reeves said. "The vote is hugely significant. It is the critical moment for Lords reform, a once-in-a-generation chance to secure it.
"There would be broader consequences for the Government's programme, particularly around political and parliamentary reform.
"The idea that failure to deliver a Government commitment on Lords reform would be consequence-free is for the birds."
He added: "Anyone who thinks Nick Clegg will shrug his shoulders, say 'never mind' and 'everyone tried our best', will be in for a rude awakening. That is not going to happen."
Mr Reeves, who is moving to the US, told the paper that Lords reform "goes to the heart of what coalition is about - making and keeping deals".
But, despite the tough talk, he said the Lib Dems would not walk out of the coalition, which would be "crazy", or block Tory public service reforms.
The draft Bill, which would create an 80% elected upper house and slash membership from 800 to 450, is the last remnant of Lib Dem constitutional reform plans.
If it became law, it would complete the removal of hereditary peers from the Lords. Elected members would be introduced in groups of 120 at the next three elections.
The process would be completed by 2025 and elected members would serve for a 15-year term.
Crucially for the Lib Dems, members would be elected by a form of proportional representation. This all but guarantees that no party would have a majority, meaning the Lib Dems would always have a key influence.
The Government has insisted its MPs will be whipped to support the Bill and that any ministerial aides who refuse to do so will have to resign or be sacked and David Cameron has said it is time to "make progress" on the issue.
Following Mr Reeves' comments, senior Lib Dem David Laws tried to play down the prospects of a clash with the Tories over the timetable of the Bill, insisting it only built on commitments both parties had made in their own manifestos.
"These were commitments made by Conservative MPs as well as Lib Dems and we expect the vast majority of coalition MPs to support this and we expect it to go through next next week," he told Sky News.
However, Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi said his party had fulfilled their obligations because they had related specifically to holding a referendum on the Alternative Vote, not on the whole package of constitutional reform.
"The boundary changes were directly linked to the AV referendum. There is a very direct and clear link between those two policies which we have delivered on," he told Sky.
He added: "I hope the Government will listen to reason. The least they could do is offer a referendum."
Meanwhile Sadiq Khan, Labour's shadow justice secretary, reiterated that his party will vote against the motion next week.
"This shows that major constitutional changes are in fact being done behind closed doors. There is now an even stronger case for letting the public have their say via a referendum," he said.
"The Government should not be ramming this legislation through Parliament without proper debate. That is why we are voting against the programme motion."
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what do you think?
No reform to the house of lords out of context with political reform as a whole. If in the 2 houses working to different agendas we only need 800 members we should get a say how they are chosen (not only how they get into parliament, but how they get on to the party lists in the first place). I get the feeling that a lot of people question whether we should not have more scope for experts (e.g. the military) to enter national politics as independents. You might say that the USA Senate is not as effective as it should be but there is one thing that is right they have 3 tranches of elections, so the whole government is on short notice.
If all Liberal party members other than the activists were questioned on this issue there answers would be the same as the other 2 main partys. And that is we're not really concerned, what we want is immediate action on the economy health care education,crime etc.etc, Ever since they have been part of Gov.they have been obsessed with pursuing a stupid agenda that has kept them among minority political partys. The lords have many faults but its made up largely by people who have done something with their lives unlike the commons which are inhabited by spivs, freeloaders,expense cheats and useless female quota make ups who may look the part but have yet to utter a word either stupid or wise.Lets keep the status quo for the time being.
Reforming the house of lords is the only way the libdems will have any political influence in the future. Particularly as they will be smashed at the next election.
This is blackmail as the LibDems know the existing boundaries favour Labour. Point is, of course, we have more important things to do than fiddle around with the House of Lords but, as with AV, the LibDems seem unconcerned about the problems of the real world. Cameron should have thought this through before going ahead with the coalition, but he was so keen to gets his hands on power. The only good thing about this shambles is that all those people who, over the years, have suggested that a coalition would be a better way of running the country, should have learnt their lesson. What is means is that we have a government that NO ONE voted for.
So ! by your definition, when did we last have a government that the majority of the people voted for ? Not that it makes much difference these days, they are all Modern Liberals anyway.
bit late now for thick cleg and his band of patsys to be running around shouting the odds. they must be sick of dancing to the tory tune. besides isnt their more pressing issues they should be worrying about, economy, national health service, unemployment, double dip recession, fraudulent bankers. etc, the man and his party are a joke,spineless bunch of nobodies. go away please
Cameron PROMISED a referendum on changing the House of Lords but now again he is backing the Lib Dems. Cameron is ridiculous . So over 100 Tories will vote against it with Labour and if Cameron says he will resign them all then they will become Independants and with Labour vote for a new General election. It is estimated that the Lib Dems will lose 100%, Labour could lose 60 seats, The europhile tories would lose their seats and Cameron and Osbourne would lose as well and the new Government would be a Coalition of Independants, UKIP and BNP. That would be fantastic.
Jonathan Goodwin-Self Deluded.
These two parties are supposed to be in a government coalition but they're more like opposition parties to each other! They can't agree on anything. Cameron just bullies all his other mp's to do what he wants them to do and Clegg.......well enough said there I think.