Nick Clegg pledges Lords reform

 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today reaffirmed his determination to press ahead with reform of the House of Lords over the coming year.

In a wide-ranging speech designed to restate his liberal beliefs, Mr Clegg denounced the unelected upper house as "an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy" and confirmed that a reform Bill will be introduced next year and forced through by use of the Parliament Act if necessary.

Unelected peers were one of a string of unaccountable vested interests in the banks, business, politics and the media at which the DPM took aim, in a clear attempt to establish a distinct identity for his Liberal Democrats at a testing time for the coalition.

He warned the City of London, on the eve of bonus season, that the Government was ready to block any "irresponsible" payments in partly state-owned banks RBS and Lloyds.

And he said he will unveil reforms in the New Year designed to "rewire the power relations in our economy" and build "responsible capitalism" by giving shareholders more power in the boardroom and workers a greater stake in their companies.

Hailing the liberal idea of the "open society", he promised to "promote fairness, liberalism and openness" against "the forces of reaction and retreat" that threaten to take hold of the country at a time of economic uncertainty.

While claiming some common ground with the Tories, the Deputy Prime Minister sustained his weekend assault on his power-sharing partners' proposed tax break for marriages, accusing some Conservatives of wanting to return the UK to the 1950s.

And he let rip at eurosceptics for putting "narrow national interest" above "enlightened internationalism" - pledging the UK will "re-engage" with EU partners on a range of issues.

The Deputy Prime Minister set out plans for an 80% elected upper chamber in May this year, and said then that the Government intends to bring forward legislation in 2012. A cross-party committee of peers and MPs was set up to consider the proposals.

But the lukewarm response from Conservative coalition partners, coupled with the humiliating referendum defeat of Liberal Democrat proposals for voting reform, have led some allies to urge him not to make further constitutional reform a priority.

Speaking in London today, he acknowledged that he had been warned not to be outspoken on the issue, but added: "I'm afraid this is one boat that urgently needs rocking."

Describing the second chamber as "perhaps the most potent symbol of a closed society", Mr Clegg said: "Of course among our peers there are those with valuable experience and expertise. But a veneer of expertise can surely no longer serve as an alibi for a chamber which legislates on behalf of the people - but is not held to account by the people."

"The Lords as currently constituted is an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy.

"So we will have a House of Lords reform Bill in the second session of this Parliament. I am hopeful that we can secure a significant degree of cross-party consensus on this, and indeed support from Lords themselves. But let there be no doubt: if it comes to a fight, the will of the Commons will prevail."

Turning on the banks just hours before Chancellor George Osborne's announcement of the Government's response to the Vickers report on reform, he said: "We took a tough line on bank bonuses last year, particularly in the banks where the Government is the biggest shareholder. We ensured that the bonus pools in RBS and Lloyds shrank, that all bonuses paid to chief executives and executive directors were entirely in deferred shares, not in cash and that a limit of £2,000 was placed on cash bonuses.

"The profound impact of the banking implosion on our economy, and on our society, has since become even clearer. There has been no lessening of public anger towards the banks - and there will be no let-up in the Government's determination to keep the clamps on bonus payments.

"So, on the eve of bonus season, let no one be in no doubt about our determination to use our clout as the major shareholder in these banks to block any irresponsible payments, or any rewards for failure."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before