» Wednesday, February 7, 2007

House of Lords Reform

Asked to confirm that the Prime Minister at PMQs today had said that he would be voting for a 50/50 proposal on the House of Lords reform, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that what the Prime Minister had said was that what he applauded and fully supported was Jack Straw’s efforts to try and find the centre of gravity on this issue. However, the Prime Minister recognised that it was a free vote, and he would make his position clear sometime nearer the free vote. The PMOS said that it was unlikely that the Prime Minister would say today what precisely his position was. Rather, the Prime Minister thought that Jack Straw had done a very good job of finding out where a consensus might be.

Put that the Prime Minister’s answer was ambiguous, the PMOS replied that what he applauded was what Jack Straw had done.

Put that the Prime Minister had very clearly said that he had now accepted the case for a hybrid House, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister accepted that the debate had moved on. What the manifesto commitment had set out to do was to try and find a consensus, not only within the House of Commons, but also between the two Houses. That was what Jack Straw was trying to do, and the Prime Minister fully supported him in his efforts to do so.

Asked if it stood and fell on the premise that the House accepted the PR arrangement, the PMOS replied that if people started with what the manifesto commitment was, it was to try and reach a decision. Therefore, what the Leader had come up with was a way of reaching a decision in the House of Commons. There then had to be a consensus between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Put that it was whether the MPs accepted the PR system, the PMOS replied that it was a Government proposal, and the Government would support that proposal.

Asked if we were suggesting that the Prime Minister had still not made up his mind, or that he did not back his own Leader of the House, the PMOS pointed out that he had said this morning in advance of PMQs that the Prime Minister fully supported the efforts of the Leader to find the centre of gravity. He also fully supported the process that the Leader had come up with, and he would make his own position on his view on what was the most likely option to find a consensus near the free vote. The Prime Minister had given a clear indication of the way in which he was heading, but he had not made absolutely clear what way he would vote.

Asked with regards to the preliminary vote, that implied that that was not going to be a free vote, the PMS said that the process would not be a free vote, but the composition would be.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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