Deputy Prime Minister statement on the House of Lords Reform Bill: September 2012
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Deputy Prime Minister made a statement on the House of Lords Reform Bill on 3 September 2012.
Check against delivery
With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on House of Lords Reform.
Members will be aware that the Government has decided not to proceed with the Lords Reform Bill during this parliament.
I can confirm that the Government has today withdrawn that Bill.
I set out these intentions during the parliamentary recess, in light of widespread speculation over the reforms.
At that time I committed to making a statement to Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity, which I am doing today.
The House will be familiar with the sequencing of events, but to recap briefly:
Lords reform was in the Coalition Agreement, reflecting separate commitments in each of the main parties’ manifestos, and based on the simple principle that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those who have to obey the laws of the land.
In May 2011 the Prime Minister and I committed to holding the first of those elections in 2015.
The Government’s proposals have drawn heavily on previous attempts at reform, led by honourable members from all sides of this House:
The Right Honourable Member for Blackburn’s Whitepaper in 2008;
The late Robin Cook’s ‘Breaking the Deadlock’;
The House of Lords Act in 1999;
Lord Wakeham’s Royal Commission;
and everything that went before.
Despite that long bloodline, it was always clear that delivering Lords reforms would require a degree of cross-party support, which the Government has sought for the last two and a half years.
Soon after the election we convened cross-party talks.
We then published a White Paper and Draft Bill, which were scrutinised by a Joint Committee of both Houses.
When the Committee reported, the Government accepted the majority of their recommendations - and I thank them again for that work. I am only sorry their contribution will not be brought to fruition in this Parliament.
The Joint Committee endorsed a mainly rather than wholly elected Chamber - not my preference - but, for the sake of progress, something we accepted.
They also recommended we increase the size of the reformed House from the proposed 300 members to 450 - again, we conceded on that.
In order to alleviate fears over the primacy of the Commons, the Government also agreed to put the Parliament Acts on the face of the Bill.
And, in response to continued concerns over the relationship between the Commons and the Lords, at the request of Coalition colleagues, we amended the draft Bill so that elections to the Lords would happen on a semi-open list system, based on larger regions, instead of STV.
So shaping our proposals has been a painstaking process, in which the Government has courted compromise at every turn.
And, in July of this year, this House voted - overwhelmingly - in favour of the Bill at second reading: 462 in favour to 124 against.
However, in spite of that, it is now clear that we will not be able to secure the Commons majority needed to pass the programme motion that accompanies the Bill.
Without that motion, the Bill effectively becomes impossible to deliver because it cannot be kept on track.
The Bill’s opponents will be able to block reform by unreasonably dragging out parliamentary debates - a situation I clearly cannot allow.
Not least with Parliament facing so many other pressing issues, particularly in terms of jobs and growth.
So, regrettably, the Coalition will not be able to deliver Lords reform.
The hard work of many members of this House, and the other place, to shape this Bill has, I believe, inched us forward.
And my hope is that we will return to this in the next Parliament, emboldened by the historic second reading vote.
For now, the immediate decision for the Government is how we fill the gap in the legislative timetable.
We will bring forward measures to promote growth - the government’s priority and my priority.
The Prime Minister and I will shortly be announcing details of that package.