No plan for Lords reform referendum

 

The coalition has decided against holding a referendum on reforming the House of Lords, it was revealed today.

The outcome will be seen as a victory for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, after David Cameron hinted that he could back a national poll.

Historic plans for introducing a largely elected second chamber are due to be published next week. It could begin operating in 2015, but the legislation is facing fierce resistance from Tories and Labour peers.

Critics have argued that the changes should not be a priority at a time of economic crisis, and said such a major constitutional reform requires a referendum.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has also suggested a vote will be needed, while the Prime Minister signalled he could back asking the public.

However, Mr Clegg has insisted that a referendum is unnecessary because Lords reform featured in the election manifestos of all three main parties.

Government sources have now confirmed that a national poll - which could have cost more than £100 million - will not feature in the plans.

Mr Cameron is said to have secured concessions in return, including making it clear that the new-look chamber cannot block legislation passed by the House of Commons.

The legislation is expected to propose cutting the number of Lords from around 900 to 300, with at least 80% of peers being elected.

Elections would be held every five years and appointed or hereditary peers will progressively be replaced by the new elected "senators".

Each senator will serve for a single term of 15 years and will represent a region rather than a traditional constituency, similar to the European Parliament system.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "Labour is committed to a wholly elected second chamber fit for the demands of a modern democracy. Our track record on reform of the House of Lords is unparalleled. Our goal is clear but we have the humility to trust the public.

"Fundamental changes to our constitution should be put to the people in a referendum. The Government is showing breathtaking arrogance.

"Lords reform is no different in this respect to devolution in Wales, Scotland and London, a regional assembly in the North East, mayors in towns and cities up and down the country and changes to our voting system, all subject to referendums, some won and some lost.

"Labour trusts the people to decide on major issues like fundamentally changing our constitution. Why are this Government scared to seek the view of the public? They are denying the public a vote on the very fabric of how our country is to be run, showing just how out of touch and arrogant they are."

PA

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