Lib Dems blaze a trail with radical reform

More achieved in ten weeks than Labour managed in 13 years

As MPs and Peers prepare for the Summer break, Liberal Democrats can look back on their first ten weeks in Government since the 1940s with some sense of achievement.

The Coalition has already made more progress in advancing the political reform agenda than the outgoing Labour government managed in thirteen years.

Liberal Democrats up and down the country are preparing to join the battle to expel first past the post from our political system once and for all, and the Government is preparing a cross-party Bill which will – after nearly 100 years of waiting – finally reform the House of Lords.

Liberal Democrat Ministers have dismissed the routine dithering and delay of past majority governments of both parties.  Lord McNally told the House of Lords earlier in July that traditional calls for Speaker’s Conferences, royal commissions were ‘recipes for inaction’.  ‘This is a radical programme’, he said, ‘I remember our high hopes [in 1997] that the incoming Labour Government would move forward. Unfortunately, after three or four years they completely ran out of steam on constitutional reform.’

There are also smaller but important changes taking place within the internal workings of Parliament.  The Government is implementing in full the proposals of the Wright Committee, to make the Commons more effective at holding the Government to account.

The Leader and Deputy Leader of the Lords have put together a group, which will recommend early changes to the working practices of the House.  The purpose is to match improvements in the Commons in terms of more effective scrutiny of government legislation and executive action.  To reduce the role of Ministers in the House, the Lord Speaker, who is presently forbidden from speaking at all during Question Time and Statements in the Lords, may be given a bigger role ensuring that for the first time an independent arbiter – not a government minister – decides which Peer should speak next.

Lord Tyler, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on political and constitutional reform said, “in the past few weeks, we have seen the Deputy Prime Minister and other Liberal Democrat Ministers achieve real momentum for the process of political reform.  Whether on fixed term parliaments, the AV referendum or on legislation for an elected second chamber, our people in government are determined and are holding their nerve.

“Where Labour simply failed to keep their promises, Liberal Democrats are delivering.  And this Government is more determined than any in my memory to see parliamentary scrutiny as an opportunity not a threat. Reforms to the working practices of both the Commons and the Lords are well overdue, but they always needed a government willing to help make them happen.  Now there is one.”

ENDS

Note to Editors:

The Coalition Government has in its first ten weeks:

•          published a Bill to bring in the Alternative Vote, reduce the number of MPs and make every vote of equal value by ensuring each constituency has a roughly equal number of voters in it

•          published a Bill to bring in fixed term parliaments, ending the power of the Prime Minister to call elections at a politically convenient time for his party

•          set up a cross-party group to draft a Bill on House of Lords reform, with a view to it undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny next year

•          agreed to introduce a power of recall for constituents to sack errant MPs

•          brought forward the Wright Committee proposals to set up a backbench business committee for the House of Commons

•          agreed to implement the proposals of the Calman Commission and introduce a referendum on further Welsh devolution

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