David Cameron has pledged to push ahead with reforms to parliamentary boundaries without Nick Clegg’s support as the Conservatives have not “broken” the Coalition contract.
The Prime Minister is setting up a bitter clash over the reforms next year, as the Liberal Democrats have said they will vote against the proposals.Mr Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, said on Monday that his party could not support the boundary changes because the Conservatives have dropped reforms to the House of Lords.He declared the Coalition’s contract to be “broken” and accused the Conservatives of failing to live up to their promises.However, Mr Cameron today brushed off Mr Clegg’s claims by saying he “does not accept” accusations that the Coalition agreement has been breached.
“We want the boundary change vote to go ahead,” he said in Wales today. The Prime Minister said he would ask every MP to support the plans to make parliamentary constituencies more equal in size.”I am going to be saying to every MP ‘Look, the House of Commons ought to be smaller, it ought to be less expensive and we ought to have seats that are exactly the same size’,” he said.”I think everyone should come forward and vote for that proposal because it is a very sensible proposal and it will be put forward.”
But he said ultimately “every party will have to make up its own mind how it votes.”The decision to proceed with a vote means Liberal Democrat ministers will have to vote against the Government – potentially a sackable offence.Jeremy Browne, a foreign office minister, became the first Liberal Democrat to confirm he would vote against the Government.”What has become clear is that the two parties cannot agree on that constitutional reform package and it seems to me to make sense that if there’s an area we can’t agree on, we put that to one side, we accept that we can’t agree on that and we get on with working together on all the areas we can agree on,” he told the BBC.
Duncan Hames, a ministerial aide to Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, also said he was prepared to resign his job on the government payroll rather than vote for the boundary reforms.The Government must now decide how to spend weeks of parliamentary time previously earmarked for debating the Lords reforms.The Prime Minister today said scrapping Lords reform would at least give ministers “the space to make the economy the Government’s number one priority”.He said he was not prepared to see Parliament “gummed up” with arguments over the reforms, adding: “I was not going to have months and months of wrangling.””It became quite clear to me that the Labour Party and others in Parliament were not going to allow Lords reform through,” he said. – Telegraph