by Ray Fleming

Britain's parliamentarians and others involved in the Westminster scene have been trying for over 100 years to find a formula for reforming the House of Lords. Clearly the present arrangement, even after the clearance of the majority of hereditary peers, is not satisfactory -- it certainly does not meet the definition of democratic since none of its life peers are elected -- even though it does good and conscientious work in reviewing the often hurried drafting of legislation by the Commons. However, to judge by yesterday's report of the special committee set up to consider the reform proposals made by Nick Clegg, the Coalition's Deputy Prime minister, no early resolution of the problem can be expected. The Committee, whose members included several acknowledged experts on the subject, dismissed Mr Clegg's ideas as “costly, ill-thought-through, constitutionally dangerous and dishonest” after studying them for nine months.

When the Coalition agreement was reached two years ago Mr Clegg was given responsibility for legislation on two issues of special interest to the Liberal Democrats. The first was the introduction of the Alternative Vote system for elections to the House of Commons which was rejected by referendum one year ago; the second was the House of Lords reform which now seems stalled with disagreement between Mr Clegg and the prime minister even on whether any acceptable compromise proposal should be the subject of a referendum.


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