Lib Dems back use of referendums

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ONE-THIRD OF government ministers - including those in the Cabinet - should be picked from people who are not elected to Parliament, the Liberal Democrats said yesterday.

Paddy Ashdown's party also proposed the increased use of referendums and the introduction of 'advisory citizens' referendums' aimed at 'giving citizens an enhanced sense of political influence and responsibility'.

The proposals are part of a series aimed at modernising Britain's system of democracy.

The party said a citizens' referendum should be held when a specified number of people demanded one. A call for a UK- wide referendum would require about 650,000 people signing a petition backing the call.

Mr Ashdown said that politics had 'hit a new low' in the public esteem. The 'shambles' over Maastricht had highlighted the failings of the party system 'and underlined the unrepresentative nature of the House of Commons'.

The reform proposals were detailed in a document entitled Here We Stand - Proposals for Modernising Britain's Democracy, which the leadership hopes will be endorsed as official policy at the party's conference in Torquay in September.

Smith interview, page 29