Nick Clegg: Lords irrelevant to public
Published 03/02/2012 | 03:22
The House of Lords showed it was out of touch with voters' concerns by trying to water down Government efforts to slash billions from welfare payments, Nick Clegg said.
A series of defeats inflicted on benefit reforms by peers, including leading bishops, were reversed by MPs on Wednesday despite protests from disability and poverty campaigners.
The upper chamber had sought to exclude child benefit from a £26,000-a-year household cap, exempt cancer patients from means testing and stop parents being charged to use the Child Support Agency.
Senior Tories have accused ministers of treating the Lords with "contempt" by using parliamentary convention to prevent the upper chamber proposing further changes in key areas.
Interviewed by parliament's The House magazine in the wake of the defeats, Mr Clegg, who is leading efforts to reform the Lords, suggested it was irrelevant to the public.
"When people are trying to pay the bills, and are worried about their jobs, and are worried their kids going to college and all the rest of it, I don't think the vast majority of people think about the House of Lords at all," he said.
"I don't think it impinges on their daily life at all. When it does, like it did this week, how can I put this politely? I suspect many people will think: 'I am not sure this is a chamber in real touch with my everyday concerns'."
He defended the opposition of some of his own party's peers to aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill however, saying they had "totally legitimate concerns" over some issues.
They were often being asked to vote in some cases on things they "wouldn't do in a month of Sundays if it was a Liberal Democrat government", he pointed out.
Mr Clegg also expressed his fears that the international stand-off with Iran over its nuclear ambitions could end in conflict or provoke countries such as Israel to launch a military strike. "Of course I worry that there will be a military conflict and that certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands," he said.