No Peer appointed since 1997 should try to block reform of the Lords if they are to retain their integrity, according to Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Tyler.

Speaking at their Birmingham Conference on Saturday, the party’s Constitutional Affairs Spokesman said, “Peers must realise that successive commitments to legislate for democratic reform of the Lords mean that anyone of integrity who has accepted nomination to the Lords since 1997 MUST accept that they are NOT there for life:   the electorate have been promised that we are all in a transitional phase, preparing for elections.  This applies to our own colleagues just as much as to all the others.”

A commitment to reform the House of Lords was a key part of the Liberal Democrats’ Coalition Agreement with the Conservatives.  David Cameron himself has indicated his strong support for reform, co-signing with Nick Clegg a clear promise of elections in 2015.

Liberal Democrats debated a motion at their Conference, which congratulated Nick Clegg and David Cameron for “making a joint commitment to elections in 2015, after 13 years of Labour dithering and failure” and condemned Ed Miliband’s party for a “divided, opportunistic and hypocritical response.”  All three parties committed to democratic reform of the Lords at the last election.

Conference delegates were asked to endorse the Coalition’s White Paper and Draft Bill on reform, which Lord Tyler’s motion said would end heredity and patronage in Parliament, while retaining the ‘primacy’ of the House of Commons – a key concern of many MPs.  The Lib Dems argue that an elected Second Chamber would strengthen Parliament as a whole in its efforts to scrutinise the Government of the Day.

Commenting afterwards, Lord Tyler said:  “Peers cannot now stand in the way of reform if they are to retain any integrity at all.  It is like the proverbial turkeys cancelling Christmas.  Colleagues on all sides must now fulfil their parties’ commitments to the electorate and see reform through to a conclusion.  If everyone will keep their word, we can go back to our constituencies and prepare for Lords elections in 2015.”


Notes to Editors:

1. Lord Tyler is the Liberal Democrats’ Constitutional Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Lords.  He was MP for North Cornwall 1992-2005, and served as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 1997-2005.  He co-authored, with Robin Cook, Ken Clarke, George Young and Tony Wright, Reforming the House of Lords: Breaking the Deadlock.  He sat on the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform in 2002, on the Joint Committee on Conventions (between the two Houses of Parliament) in 2006 and is now a member of the specially-convened  Joint Committee, which is scrutinising the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill and White Paper.

2. Contact: Alex Davies, Parliamentary Assistant on 07971 883996

3. The full text of Lord Tyler’s speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference is below


I am a turkey.

And with Nick Clegg in Cabinet, I can finally look forward to Christmas.

It is to the eternal credit of this Government – our Government – that more progress was made on Lords reform in their first 13 months than happened in 13 years under Labour.

But now there are firm proposals from the Coalition to lift our Parliament finally into the 21st century, the cynics and the diehards are preparing once again to block any change at all.

They hope that simply by grumbling, by naysaying, by cavilling about the detail, and by prophesising failure, that they will achieve failure.  For that is what they want.

Nowhere is this tendency more prevalent than on the Labour benches in the Lords. 

One time bastions of socialism now not just pillars, but supporting walls in the House of the Establishment.

Most of them ex-MPs like John Hutton, John Reid, John McFall, and John Prescott…

…I call them the Jurassic Johns…

…who stood in election after election promising reform. 

But with the ermine on their shoulders they are infected by a toxic, self-regarding complacency.

That their ‘expertise’ is vital, that democracy breeds bad government, and that anyone who suggests change hasn’t really given proper thought to how wonderful they all are.

They must realise that successive commitments to legislate for democratic reform of the Lords mean that anyone of integrity who has accepted nomination to the Lords since 1997 MUST accept that they are NOT there for life:   the electorate have been promised that we are all in a transitional phase, preparing for elections.

This applies to our own colleagues just as much as to all the others.

That’s why our Coalition Cabinet is signed up to change.  David Cameron himself has signed the foreword to our White Paper and Draft Bill on Lords Reform, endorsing elections in 2015.

It is our job, Conference, to hold politicians to their promises.

And to prove the cynics wrong.

To do that reformers must unite to stop the Establishment winning again.

There is a Joint Committee sitting now, looking at the Government’s proposals, and giving them close scrutiny.

I sit on that Committee.

And it has an important job to do, but to do it properly it needs popular support.

Not from the old Westminster voices but from you, writing to your MP, writing to your local paper, challenging the old guard not to defend the status quo in the last ditch.
There are important issues for the Committee to try and resolve…

…like the particular PR electoral system to be used, and the size of the chamber.

For my own part, I want to see a second chamber, where members needn’t all be full-time politicians, and where we get a truly proportional result.

To achieve both I think we will need more than 300 members. 

All the Committees and Commissions over the last decade have recommended a higher number, and I think the Government needs to look at that before it brings forward its final Bill.

Then there is the crucial matter of whether the chamber should be 80% elected or 100%. 

I favour the latter, and I will support Amendment 1, but we must remember that 80% is better than the 0% achieved by Labour.

In all these issues, I urge Conference not to turn down the chance of progress now, because the destination isn’t quite ambitious or perfect enough.

No British reform happens wholesale.

Take the extension of the franchise, votes for women, devolution, European integration.

All happened in stages.  Modest reform today need not quash our ambition for radical change tomorrow.

But if tomorrow’s ambitions stand in the way of the offer of change today, we will be squandering the chance of a century…

…The chance finally to get our Parliament of the starting blocks and on the road to full democracy.

In the run up to 2030, when the first Senators reach the end of their terms, let’s argue then about whether Senator Pack, and Senator Batstone should be able to stand for re-election.

But let’s not waste time now, and risk them never getting in at all.

So in these coming months, let’s unite around Nick in holding MPs in all parties to account.

All promised to support reform in their manifestos.

None – to my knowledge, at least – promised to rebel.

All parliamentarians, of all parties, should be in this together – fulfilling their commitments to the electorate.

A reformed Lords is not ‘Nick Clegg’s baby’, nor is it our own exclusive hobby horse.

It is the promise of every party to all the people in this country.


Support this motion, do as you wish on the amendments – it’s a free vote! – and, in four days’ time, go back to your constituencies and…

Prepare for Lords elections in 2015.

Thank you.

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