Page last updated at 22:10 GMT, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 23:10 UK

Referendums debate part two

The government's response to a report on referendums in the UK was "simply wrong", peers have heard.

In a debate on the Lords constitution committee's report on 12 October 2010, a number of peers disagreed with the written response sent by Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper.

The government rejected the committee's conclusion that referendums have previously been used as a tactical device by governments.

Lord Pannick - a member of the committee - said that the response ignored the evidence presented in the report.

He said that the report "clearly established that Mr Harper is simply wrong in his analysis of the past".

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock voiced his concern at the "apparent contempt" in Mr Harper's response. "The government seem to be saying that as soon as they decide something, it will happen."

Labour's Lord Falconer of Thoroton, speaking from the front bench for the first time since 2007, said that the government's response flew in the face of "pages and pages of evidence".

However, the former lord chancellor pledged to support the coalition's constitutional changes "wherever we can". He confirmed Labour's support for a referendum on moving to the alternative vote for elections to the Commons.

Lord McNally, replying for the government, stressed that the Lords constitution committee's report had influenced the Parliamentary Voting and Constituencies Bill, which was being debated in the Commons.

"It's difficult to give all the answers because things may be changing even as we speak," he said.

"I don't think there's any evidence that the government is using a steamroller on this," he added. "It is listening and it is consulting."

Watch part one of the debate here.

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