Reform of the House of Lords is a key commitment in the Coalition Agreement – the contract that keeps the coalition parties working together in the national interest. The Liberal Democrats have held to that contract even when it meant voting for things that we found difficult.
The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, for the first time part of our contract has now been broken.When part of a contract is broken, it is normal and necessary to amend that contract in order to then move on. So that is what we are doing.
I have told the Prime Minister that when Parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election Liberal Democrats in Parliament will oppose them. Coalition is a two-way street. I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like while Liberal Democrats are bound to the entire agreement.
The Liberal Democrats joined the Coalition, in good faith, in the national interest at a time of crisis. We will continue to work in the national interest.We will continue to focus on the central task that brought the Coalition together: Rescuing, repairing and rebalancing our economy.
And we will continue fighting for and delivering the things we believe in – making the tax system fairer; the Pupil Premium; green energy; and jobs and opportunities for our young people.
In my discussions with the Labour Party leadership, they have made it clear that while they continue to back Lords reform in principle, they are set on blocking it in practice. Supporting the ends, but – when push comes to shove – obstructing the means.
I invited Ed Miliband to propose the number of days that Labour believe is necessary for consideration of the Bill. He declined to do so.
Instead he confirmed Labour would only support individual closure motions – which could bog down Parliament for months.
Regrettably Labour is allowing short-term political opportunism to thwart long-term democratic change.
So Liberal Democrats will continue to pursue our values in government and we will continue to campaign for democratic renewal.
My hope is that in the next Parliament we will return to it emboldened by the overwhelming vote in favour of our Bill at second reading and that Lords Reform will eventually be a reality.