Peers dig in against Lords reform

By staff

Four-fifths of peers are opposed to a wholly or mainly elected upper House, a poll has suggested.

Deep-seated opposition to the reforms, seen as a key objective for the Liberal Democrats, will worry senior figures in the coalition government as they assess the difficulties of pushing change through parliament.

The research was carried out by the Times newspaper. Only 310 of the Lords’ 789 members responded but the newspaper said the proportions were roughly accurate with the political make-up of the second chamber.

Eighty-one per cent of peers are happy with the Lords as it is at present.

Lib Dem peers are divided on the issue. Nearly two-thirds believe the Lords functions effectively in its current form, but a majority support a large elected element.

The government could use the Parliament Act to override a rejection of the reforms in the Lords – but nearly three-quarters of peers believe taking this step would be unconstitutional.

Insiders warn that the coalition could struggle to succeed in its Lords reform agenda before the 2015 general election.

The first stage, a cross-party committee seeking to come up with initial proposals, should have reported by the end of last year but only did so earlier this month.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems have failed to convince Labour of the merits of their plans, which were dismissed as a “dog’s dinner” by shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg proposed using the single transferable vote (STV) system to elect 80% of the Lords’ membership, which would be reduced from 750 to 300.