Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cameron: Lords Reform Could Go to Referendum

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cameron: Lords Reform Could Go to Referendum

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy and Nicholas Cecil

DAVID Cameron put Nick Clegg's plans for House of Lords reform in jeopardy today by leaving the door open for a referendum.

After a weekend of Tory party members rebelling against the shake-up, the Prime Minister conceded that constitutional change was not his biggest priority. On calls for a referendum, which many Conservatives think could kill off the project, Mr Cameron said he was personally against one, but "we shouldn't rule it out of hand".

His move gave heart to Tories trying to block the upheaval, which they claim would cost [pounds sterling]250 million every five years. But it risked upsetting Nick Clegg, who is pushing hard for the current, undemocratic House of Lords to be replaced with a largely elected Upper House.

The developments came on the publication day of a long-awaited report from a cross-party committee of MPs and peers setting out detailed proposals for how the new Lords would be chosen and exercise their power. The special joint committee urged: [bar] A larger-than-expected House of 450 peers, each serving 15-year terms, of which 80 per cent would be elected and the other 20 per cent nominated.

[bar] A third of elected peers would be replaced every five years, using the single transferable vote system, under which voters are offered a list of parties and a list of individual candidates.

[bar] Peers who do not attend regularly would be struck off. New peers would be phased in, starting with 150 in 2015.

The committee was split over key elements of reform -- with eight of its 26 members voting against having a referendum and nine voting against elected peers.

Asked on BBC radio if he would back a referendum, Mr Cameron said: "My view is you shouldn't rule it out. There is quite a strong case against a referendum, which is that it would cost a lot of money, and as all three parties have said they are in favour of a mainly elected House of Lords, it doesn't strike me as an incredibly powerful argument. …

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