Crisis for Clegg as Cameron hints at referendum on Lords reform

Deputy leader accused of 'dodging' critical issue by committee he set up to make dream come true

Nick Clegg's plans for an elected House of Lords have run into problems on several fronts as David Cameron left the door open to a controversial referendum and opposition mounted among MPs and peers.

The Deputy Prime Minister opposes a referendum on proposals for 80 per cent of the second chamber to be elected. But a joint committee of MPs and peers he set up to produce a blueprint for reform came out in favour of the public having the final say. Mr Cameron, while saying he personally opposed a referendum, did not rule one out – a move seen as an invitation to Tory MPs to demand a public vote when Mr Clegg's Bill is debated by the Commons.

On Sunday, Mr Clegg argued that a referendum was not needed because all three main parties pledged Lords reform in their 2010 election manifesto. Yesterday Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4: "My view is that you shouldn't rule it out." And he said Lords reform would not happen unless the parties "work together, rationally, reasonably, sensibly".

But there was little sign yesterday of the splits between and within them being resolved. The joint committee ended up disagreeing among themselves. Twelve of its 26 members issued an alternative blueprint, accusing Mr Clegg of not doing a proper job in his draft Bill because he dodged the critical issue of how a mainly elected Lords would affect the Commons. They warned that elected peers would challenge the supremacy of MPs and cause "gridlock" between the two Houses.

Ministers were also embroiled in a row after refusing to reveal how much the revamped Lords might cost. It emerged that the proposed elected peers could earn about £900,000 during their 15-year, non-renewable term – about £60,000 a year, slightly lower than the £65,000 annual salary of an MP. Unofficial estimates put the annual cost of running the new chamber at £177m in its first year and £433m a year by 2015-20 – not including the elections. Mark Harper, the Cabinet Office Minister, dismissed the estimates as completely speculative. Under the joint committee's blueprint for a 450-member second chamber, a third of them would be replaced every five years under a single transferable vote system allowing people to back a party or an individual candidate.

Lord (Ivor) Richard, a former Labour Leader of the Lords, who chaired the joint committee, said it agreed that such important constitutional change should be put to the people in a referendum. "It is not a question of tinkering with the electoral system," he said. Baroness (Gillian) Shephard, a former Tory Cabinet minister, was scathing in her criticism of Mr Clegg, saying he did not "do the work", "think through" his proposals and "deal with the vast constitutional implications" before bringing forward legislation.

Peer pressure: How Lords may look

* Current 800-strong House to be replaced between 2015-2025 by a 450-strong second chamber

* 360 peers (80 per cent) elected for a single, 15-year non-renewable term by the single transferable vote system used in New South Wales, Australia, which allows voters to choose individual candidates or a party

* 90 peers (20 per cent) to be appointed by an independent Appointments Commission, which would give priority to people without recent party affiliation and from the "major faiths"

* Peers would receive a salary of £60,000 a year instead of the current £300-a-day allowance for turning up

* Peers who did not attend the Lords on two-thirds of the sitting days in the 2011-12 would be the first to lose their seats. The others would become "transitional members" and retain their seats until 2025, when the final tranche of elected peers chosen

* Peers would be elected for an area the size of six or eight Commons constituencies

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Officer (HMP Brixton Mentoring Project)

£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

DT teachers required for supply roles in Cambridge

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: DT teachers required ...

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering