Tory backbencher calls for Lords reform referendum Lords

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David Cameron has been urged to promise a referendum on House of Lords reform if he wants to win over enough rebel backbenchers to get it through the Commons.

The Prime Minister told his MPs on Wednesday night that he was looking at reducing the elected element of the new-look second chamber in a bid to secure greater Tory backing.

He said he would have “one more try” at reaching a consensus before the autumn, after which he would draw a line if no agreement could be found.

Louise Mensch, an outspoken Tory backbencher who was among the 91 rebels against the House of Lords Reform Bill this week, said Mr Cameron needed to offer a referendum.

She suggested the offer to reduce the number of elected peers in the Lords would not buy off many rebels.

“It is probably a good idea (a smaller elected element) but more than that I think a single thing that would help get this through is to have a referendum,” she said yesterday.

“If we are to have democracy in the upper house of the Westminster Parliament, that’s a pretty significant change, and we had a referendum for the Welsh Assembly.

“It would certainly be sufficient to get my vote.”

She claimed everybody accepted reform of the Lords was necessary but that the Government’s proposals were inadequate.

“The problem that many people have with the proposals as outlined is not the proportion to be elected - many people want a fully elected second chamber – the problem is that, as written, what we are asked to accept is senators hand-picked by the party whips who are elected on a 15-year term for £300 a day and never have to face the electorate again.

“To a lot of us that doesn’t sound like democracy, whether the proportion is 50 per cent, 80 per cent or 100 per cent.”

Ms Mensch denied that Mr Cameron, as suggested by some observers, is merely going through the motions on Lords reform.

“I think the Prime Minister is absolutely committed with the Deputy Prime Minister to deliver Lords reform, and the key point is that every single person who went through that rebel lobby the other night wants Lords reform and recognises that the chamber cannot continue as it is.”

Commons Leader Sir George Young confirmed today that the Government planned to introduce the vital timetable motion for the Bill in the autumn but stopped short of naming a date.

It will not be considered in the first week back after the summer recess in September, however, leaving only one more week in which it might be before the party conference season starts later that month.

“We want to reflect, we want to allow time for meaningful discussion, including with the opposition and other honourable members to build a consensus on the best way forward,” Sir George said.