Mr Redwood’s contribution to the debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill, 9 July

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I entirely agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that the people need to be part of the process and feel that Parliament belongs to them, so will he give them a vote on his proposals?

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Nick Clegg): I think that a referendum is not justified in this instance, for the following reasons: first, unlike other issues that are a source of great disagreement here, all three main parties are committed to delivering House of Lords reform, by way of their own manifestos, which they put to the British people at the last election, the one before that, and the one before that; secondly, it would be very expensive—£80 million—for something on which we are all supposed to agree; and thirdly, it would detract attention from the much more important referendum taking place in this Parliament: the referendum on the future of the United Kingdom.

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9 Comments

  1. Mike Agg
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    It seems strange to me that a Member who decries the transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels would want to abdicate yet more of the Commons’ power to a plebiscite. You MPs were elected to debate and decide on these matters on our behalf. Do your job.

    The bishops in the Lords, however, are another matter altogether. Who elected them to decide our laws? If enough people in the land think we need clerics in the legislature, surely they would not have any trouble getting elected in the normal, democratic way.

    Reply: When Lords and Commons disagree about the configuration of Parliament itself, it seems best to ask the people.

    • Andy H
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      It is one thing to allow Parliament to debate and create law, but when it comes to major changes in the governing principles, it is vital that the process is NOT left to the politicians.

    • Michael Lee
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      REDWOOD 1

      CLEGG NIL

  2. Derek Emery
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    …it would be very expensive—£80 million—for something on which we are all supposed to agree.

    The last thing about Lords reform is that all agree on it except is an airy fairy principle. There’s an old adage; If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    My guess is whatever that is put in place based on elected politicians will have to be worse as these are bound be driven more by party politics than what is right for the country.

    The public will notice if what goes though parliament turns out to be a dog’s dinner in practice. The media will be all over any and all decisions taken by the new Lords that are poorer and slanted to one party or the other and less good for the country overall than previously. My guess is that anything put in place to replace an institution that has worked reasonably well for hundreds of years has to be worse.

    The probability of inventing a new system that works as well is vanishing small simply because there is nobody who could even define the important parameters relating to the present system. The Lords is in effect an ill defined but complex system that works. Whatever is put place has to be a poor substitute.

    The public have a fairly poor view of politics and political parties generally and a new Lords that works less well in the public interest will reinforce their negative views of politicians.

  3. Barbara Stevens
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I agree Mr R, the people should be consulted we pay the bills, not the Liberal Party or Mr Clegg. His proposals will cost, I’ve read somewhere, that this Lords change will in fact cost. one and half billion pounds, and he talks about 80 million being expensive. I’m afraid he sounded as silly as the motion it’s self, I just hope and pray that the Conservatives throw this out into the Thames where it belongs. We now need Conservatives to show some mettle, or they will never be forgiven. As for the ‘blackmail’ and threats from the LD, well call their bluff, with their showing in the polls it would be a very foolish mistake. Some how I don’t think they will rock the boat they know full well which side their bread is buttered.

  4. Frances Matta
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Rebels yell and see off Clegg AND Cameron. Result.
    I would rather cut off my hand than vote Labour but I totally agreed with Baroness Boothroyd when she said:
    “I have never witnessed such a reckless attempt to change the constitution and to do it on such spurious grounds.”

  5. Gary Rickard
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    So Mr Clegg defends the decision not to give people a choice by saying that at election time, if you opposed Lords’ reform, you didn’t have a choice.

    I have to agree with Mike in questioning why we have religious leaders in the House of Lords, after all, we’re not Saudi Arabia.

  6. Bob of Bonsall
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    In this day and age having an important part of the legislature selected by accident of birth is an anachronism and should have been abolished decades ago.

    EXCEPT that, even after Blair’s ill judged reforms and the stuffing of the Upper Chamber with political appointees, it still works.

    It worlks best on two not wholy unconnected levels. As a debating chamber the level of debate is infinitely superior to Yah Boo activities, one hesitates to call it “debate,” of the Commons.

    This, in turn, leads into it’s primary function as a revising chamber where the Lords will suggest amendments to legislation proposed by the Lower House.

    In the years before Blair’s vandalism, the Upper Chamber proved it’s worth on more than one occasion, particularly during Margaret Thatcher’s term in office when often it provided the only effective parliamentary opposition.

    We already have enough elected representatives, adding another, expensive layer and thereby destroying the expertise of the Lords would be more than a mere folly.

    • cachaciero
      Posted September 6, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      Couldn’t agree more, seems to me there has been more sense out of the Lords than the Commons, over the last several Parliament and not just during the Thatcher years. We desperately need to keep at least one part of government that is composed of people that have at least in part skills and knowledge gained outside of Westminster (even if some of them are clerics).
      If it “aint broke don’t fix it”

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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