Referendums: make mine a treble - call for Lords vote

Good news for political anoraks suffering withdrawal symptoms after this year's referendums: there are calls for another one.

Paul Murphy, former Secretary of State for Wales, argues that proposals to introduce elections to the House of Lords should be put to a popular vote.

He told the Commons last night: "Some 100 years ago when the then Liberal Government introduced their first reform of the House of Lords, there was, to all intents and purposes, a referendum in that there was a general election on a single issue: whether the House of Lords should be reformed.

"Therefore, it is completely logical that we, too, should have a referendum on reform of the House of Lords. We had a referendum on whether we should remain a member of what was then known as the Common Market. We had referendums on elected Assemblies in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

"We had a referendum only this year on whether the powers of the Welsh Assembly should be extended—they were—and we also had a referendum on the alternative vote."

His was one of several Welsh contributions to a lengthy Commons debate on the UK Government's plans to reform the Lords, plans that have provoked cross-party opposition.

Simon Hart, Tory MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is clearly not a fan of his own government's proposals: "A snapshot of the views expressed across the Chamber reveals that this is not about Lords reform but about parliamentary reform, abolition of the Lords and the relationship between the Lords and this place, between us and the devolved Assemblies and between us and voters.

"We should bear in mind the wonderful words of the Prime Minister, whom I also commend, who rightly said that this was a fourth-term issue."

Lords reform is on the agenda as a result of the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, but even junior members of the UK Government find it hard to hide their frustration at its current priorities.

Glyn Davies, parliamentary private secretary to Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, said on Facebook: "Wonder what the voting people of our country, as they struggle with reduced spending power think of us spending so much of our time debating this issue."