BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 15:48 UK

Brown pledges to introduce fixed-term parliaments

Brown: 'The legitimacy of our democracy must be restored'

Gordon Brown has said he will introduce fixed-term parliaments and a referendum on reforming the UK's voting system if Labour are re-elected on 6 May.

Detailing Labour's constitutional reform plans, he said the public would be able to vote on whether to bring in an alternative way to elect MPs.

The prime minister also said MPs would be banned from lobbying.

The Conservatives have their own reform plans, aiming to give constituents the chance to remove corrupt MPs.

The Liberal Democrats are also proposing to make it possible for MPs to be removed during the course of a parliament, and to introduce proportional representation.

Lords reform

The prime minister said Labour's proposals represented "the most comprehensive programme of constitutional reform for a century".

The change to fixed-term parliaments would remove a prime minister's ability to call an election at any time during the current five-year limit - much of the past two and a half years has seen speculation about whether Mr Brown was going to call an election.

I believe that we cannot truly master the other big challenges facing our country...unless the legitimacy of our democracy is fully restored
Gordon Brown

As well as removing a key advantage to the sitting government, it would bring the UK into line with the US and most European countries.

Mr Brown said that if Labour was voted back into power, there would be a referendum on its planned constitutional reform changes by October 2011.

He added that the referendum would also include a vote on removing the hereditary peers from the House of Lords, "despite the Conservatives' determination to block all change in the current Constitutional Reform Bill".

Outside jobs

The Conservatives' own policy for reforming the Lords is for "a mainly elected second chamber", while the Lib Dems want it to become fully elected.

In addition to the ban on MPs carrying out lobbying work, Mr Brown said those that wanted to take up outside jobs would first have to gain approval from an independent body.

"I believe that we cannot truly master the other big challenges facing our country - economic recovery, public service reform, climate change, social care - unless the legitimacy of our democracy is fully restored," he said.

The BBC News channel's chief political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, said the prime minister's speech on political reform "was an attempt to redirect the focus of today's campaigning away from the National Insurance row".

Labour says its planned 1% rise in National Insurance from April 2011 is vital to maintain key public services, but the Conservatives have attacked it as a "jobs tax", and have gained the support of 68 leading business people.

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