Clegg will look 'petulant' unless he backs down, warns Lord Steel

Former Lib Dem leader says the Deputy PM's tactics on Lords reform are a 'mistake'

Nick Clegg was last night warned by the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Steel that he risked looking "petulant" by refusing to back more limited House of Lords reform in the wake of his failure to achieve a democratically elected second chamber.

Amid deep Coalition tensions, the Deputy Prime Minister also came under pressure from David Cameron who insisted he would persist with moves to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies – despite the Liberal Democrats saying they would wreck the plans in response to the Tories blocking Lords reform.

Mr Clegg made clear on Monday he had no intention of supporting what he described as "House of Lords reform-lite" which he dismissed "wheeze" to "dignify an illegitimate house". But in an interview with The Independent, Lord Steel criticised his approach as a "mistake" which would impede attempts to improve the governance of the second chamber. Lord Steel is currently promoting a Bill, already passed by the Lords, which would facilitate a voluntary retirement scheme, remove non-attenders and peers who have been imprisoned. It is due to be debated in the House of Commons in its next session – and with Government support could be strengthened further.

Speaking yesterday, Lord Steel said he was "disappointed" by the Deputy Prime Minister's assertion that this support was unlikely to be forthcoming. "I think it is a mistake to walk away from House of Lords reform altogether because of the failure to ensure an elected second chamber.

"It appears to be sending the message that if I can't get my own way I won't do anything. That is not credible and makes you look petulant. I don't think Nick Clegg is petulant and I hope that he will consider what we can do now, short of elections, to tidy up the mess of the existing system."

Lord Steel added that, if it had Government support, his Bill could go much further. "If the Government were so minded [we could introduce] either a fixed retirement age at the end of each parliament or a fixed 15-year term, either of which would end membership of parliament for life and get the numbers in the Lords down to below the numbers in the Commons. They could also bring an end to entry to parliament by heredity by abandoning the by-elections.

"All of these are obtainable measures with which the Government could fill now available legislative time, rather than walk away from this issue with nothing."

But last night Liberal Democrat sources indicated that they were unlikely to throw their support behind their former leader's suggestions. "David Steel has not won himself many friends by pushing a Bill which he knows is against party policy," said one. "Our position is very clear. We are not interested in perpetuating an unelected, undemocratic second chamber or passing measures that would seem to legitimise that."

Many Tories are livid that Mr Clegg has vowed to oppose redrawing of boundaries in apparent retribution for the demise of the Lords reform plans.

Mr Cameron yesterday threw down a challenge to his Liberal Democrat deputy by signalling his determination to force a Commons vote on redrawing parliamentary boundaries. His insistence means Liberal Democrat ministers will be forced to vote against the moves, highlighting Coalition tensions. But it would also allow the Tories to argue in a future election that the Liberal Democrats sided with Labour out of self-interest to block boundary changes.

Hold on to your seats? MPs threatened by boundary changes

Nadine Dorries (Con, Mid-Bedfordshire)

There would have been few tears shed by Downing Street over the departure of Ms Dorries, the most vocal of Mr Cameron's Tory critics, after her seat vanished.

Danny Alexander (Lib Dem, Inverness, Nairn Badenoch & Strathspey)

The Chief Secretary's vast constituency was to have been absorbed into a vast Highland seat, setting up a battle with former leader Charles Kennedy for the party's nomination.

Priti Patel (Con, Witham)

A rising star of the right, Ms Patel had been facing a search for a new constituency after her Essex seat was set to be merged with Braintree.

Liam Byrne (Lab, Birmingham Hodge Hill)

Birmingham had been due to lose one of its 10 seats – and the former Cabinet minister had looked most likely to be looking for a new berth.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit