By Ray Fleming

In a week when our attention has been held by much more newsworthy events the latest attempt by a British government to grasp the nettle of reform of the House of Lords passed almost without notice.

Perhaps that was just as well because the proposals put forward by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg were in the main an unimpressive rehash of previous failures dating back to the 1911 Parliament Bill.

Reform is certainly needed if only because there are now 800 members of the House of Lords, an unwieldy body and one not fit for the principal purpose of the Upper House as a revising chamber. Mr Clegg wants to reduce the number to 300, a sensible aim but one that cannot be achieved until 2025 at the earliest. Most or possibly all of the Members of the new House would be elected by a system of proportional representation for a period of 15 years. These broad brush reforms will be referred to a joint committee of the Lords and Commons for detailed discussion -- almost certainly a formula for further delay. David Cameron showed his support for Mr Clegg's ideas by attending the debate on them. He heard mostly criticism and it is unlikely that the coalition government will think the parliamentary effort necessary to bring about substantial change, however necessary, is justified when there is so little support for it. After a frustrating century of trying it must be time to ask whether a completely new approach needs to be taken to the issue instead of yet more tinkering with the past.