Clegg denounces Lords as he pledges reform in a year

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday reaffirmed his determination to press ahead with reform of the House of Lords over the coming year.

In a wide-ranging speech designed to restate his liberal beliefs, Mr Clegg denounced the unelected upper house as “an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy” and confirmed that a reform Bill will be introduced next year and forced through by use of the Parliament Act if necessary.

Unelected peers were one of a string of unaccountable vested interests in the banks, business, politics and the news media at which he took aim, in a clear attempt to establish a distinct identity for his Liberal Democrats at a testing time for the coalition.

He warned the City of London, on the eve of bonus season, that the Government was ready to block any “irresponsible” payments in partly state-owned banks RBS and Lloyds.

And he said he will unveil reforms in the New Year designed to “rewire the power relations in our economy”.

Hailing the liberal idea of the “open society”, he promised to “promote fairness, liberalism and openness” against “the forces of reaction and retreat” that threaten to take hold of the country at a time of economic uncertainty.

While claiming some common ground with the Tories, the Deputy Prime Minister sustained his weekend assault on his power-sharing partners’ proposed tax break for marriages, accusing some Conservatives of wanting to return the UK to the 1950s.

And he let rip at eurosceptics for putting “narrow national interest” above “enlightened internationalism”.

Mr Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, set out plans for an 80 per cent elected upper chamber in May this year, and said then the Government intended to bring forward legislation in 2012. A committee of peers and MPs was set up to consider the proposals.