Committee expected to reject Nick Clegg’s plans for Lords reform
MPs and peers on a committee considering Nick Clegg’s plans for reform of the House of Lords are set to reject his proposal to cut its size to 300.
Members of the committee believe that, instead of replacing the Lords with a new body with 300 full-time members, the government should allow about 450 people to sit in the new, largely elected chamber.
This would allow some members to serve part-time. With the government planning to allow 20% of the Lords to be appointed, expanding the size of the Lords from 300 to 450 would also create space for 90 appointed peers, instead of just 60.
Almost 800 peers are currently allowed to sit and vote in the Lords, although only about 400 are regular attendees. Many of those combine work in the Lords with other professional activity.
Lord Tyler, a Liberal Democrat member of the joint committee considering the government’s draft Lords reform bill, told the Today programme on Thursday that Clegg’s plan to have just 300 members in the new Lords was opposed by his colleagues on the committee.
“What’s being said by many on the committee, probably the whole of the committee, is that simply cutting it back to 300 and assuming that everybody’s got to be a full-time parliamentarian would make us too much like the House of Commons,” he said.
“I think the public are expecting to have a second chamber which is very different to the House of Commons.”
Tyler was responding to a BBC report about the committee’s thinking. The committee is not due to publish its report on the government’s draft bill until March, but if it does reject the 300 figure, Clegg will have to decide whether to ignore its findings or to substantially rewrite his plans.
Clegg has indicated that Lords reform will be a key battleground in the next parliamentary session. There have been doubts about the strength of the Conservative commitment to Lords reform, but last month Clegg said that there should be “no doubt” about David Cameron’s determination to put the Lords on an elected basis.
Although all the main parties are committed to an elected Lords, many peers believe that the current system, which involves most peers being appointed, works very well.
Clegg, who leads on constitutional reform for the government, has indicated that the government will use the Parliament Act to push its plans through the Lords if peers try to obstruct them.
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