Huge majority of peers opposed to plans for elected second chamber
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 10 July 2012
Nick Clegg's plans to reform the House of Lords could be killed off by peers even if they survive their troubled passage through the Commons.
A ComRes survey of 100 peers found huge opposition to the Coalition Government's plans to replace the 800-strong Lords with a smaller chamber in which 80 per cent of its members would be elected by voters for 15-year terms at general elections.
Asked whether major Lords reform is likely to be passed in the current five-year parliament, only 20 per cent of peers say this is likely and 80 per cent judge it unlikely.
Among the representative cross-party sample, only 14 per cent of peers believe the Coalition's blueprint would improve the second chamber, while 86 per cent think it would not.
While 80 per cent of Liberal Democrat peers believe the Government's proposals would improve the Lords, some 96 per cent of Conservative, 95 per cent of Labour and 94 per cent of independent crossbench peers say it would not.
Asked whether they would vote for the election of about 300 senators by proportional representation, 78 per cent of peers say they would not and only 18 per cent that they would.
Some 93 per cent of Tory, 81 per cent of Labour and 84 per cent of crossbench peers say they would oppose such a plan. In contrast, 78 per cent of Lib Dem peers would vote for it.
According to ComRes, there is little appetite among current peers to stand in the elections proposed by Mr Clegg, which would see the new House elected in three stages at the 2015, 2020 and 2025 general elections. Only 9 per cent of peers say they would stand for election to the reformed House, while 87 per cent say they would not.
Although Labour will vote with Tory rebels tonight to oppose the Government's plans to cut short debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill, Ed Miliband's party has promised to ensure the measure eventually passes the Commons and is sent to the Lords.
If that happens, the survey suggests that peers would strongly oppose the shake-up, raising the prospect of a constitutional clash between the two Houses.
The Liberal Democrats might call for the second chamber to be tamed by the Parliament Act, which allows the Commons to override the Lords. But some Tories would be reluctant because this means it could take up to two years to secure the Bill's passage.
Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, the crossbench peer and former Commons Speaker, urged MPs to oppose the Bill and tonight's timetable motion, saying the motion is an "outrage".
She said she was worried that elected peers would have too much power and authority to challenge MPs on key laws such as the Budget's proposals.
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