BROWN RETREATS ON REFORM

Gordon Brown appeared to back away from his commitment to a referendum on electoral reform today (Thursday) as his Minister in the Lords refused to confirm that there would be legislation in this Parliament.

In a special House of Lords debate called by Liberal Democrat Peers, the party’s Constitutional Affairs spokesman, Lord Tyler challenged Justice Minister Lord Bach directly, “Are they going to legislate now?”

“I did not say that,” he responded.

Commenting afterwards, Lord Tyler said:

“The Prime Minister is a jelly of indecision. One minute we are to get an amendment to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, the next minute we’re back to the lily-livered suggestion of a manifesto commitment.

“Labour promised electoral reform in their 1997 manifesto, and we are still waiting. Why should anyone believe them now?”

The House of Lords’ debate spanned a wide range of constitutional issues on which Labour has dragged its feet including the role of the Attorney General, the accountability of Ministers to Parliament and reform of the second chamber itself.

Lord Tyler added:

“Evidence from the Chilcot Inquiry could scarcely be clearer that Parliament is in a very weak position in relation to the Executive, as indeed is the Cabinet in relation to the Prime Minister.

“Even on a matter as important as the decision to send our troops to war, the Attorney General’s supposedly-independent legal advice was clearly compromised by the imperative to distil and polarise a complex picture for political ends.

“Civil service ‘whistleblowers’ clearly need particular protection, if the mistakes of Iraq are not to be repeated. “Yet Labour Ministers keep their heads in the sand, and Conservatives continue to prevaricate and procrastinate about the solutions.

“Only the Liberal Democrats will clean up, and open up, politics in Britain.”

ENDS

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