The Conservative Party signalled a step back from its commitment to democracy in the House of Lords today (Tuesday), during a question on reform.

The mini-debate saw Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Tyler, call for the Government to resist ‘timid and temporary tinkering’ in favour of fundamental reform of the second chamber. “The House is likely to be here for 15 or 16 months before an election. All three parties in both houses, supported the thrust of the Government White Paper [on Lords Reform]…If there is delay in this House that this would be interpreted by the public as complacency and special interest”, he said.

Responding, the Minister, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, confirmed that the Government remained committed to fundamental reform.

Only the Conservatives said they could not take forward previously agreed commitments. The Conservative Leader (Lords) retorted, “there is no possibility of an agreement on reform of this House while [the Liberal Democrats] stick to a House elected by proportional representation.”

Agreement had been secured in the cross-party last year talks that elections to a reformed second chamber should take place on a different system to that used for the House of Commons.

Commenting afterwards, Lord Tyler said:

“Lord Strathclyde sat for hours in cross-party talks and agreement was reached.

“The Conservatives’ approach today suggests they are stepping back from democracy. To insist that the unfair electoral arrangements for the Commons should be replicated in the Lords is to throw nails all over the road to reform.

“Everyone has been clear until now that the systems for the Lords and the Commons should be different. Conservative MPs will doubtless be left wondering whether Conservative Peers now favour electoral reform for Commons just so they can hang on to distortion in the Lords.

“Their ridiculous position makes a mockery of any Conservative commitment to revive democracy in Britain. “Ministers should challenge Tories in both Houses – from Cameron down – to honour their earlier promises, by bringing forward immediate legislation for an elected second chamber well before the country next goes to the polls.”


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