03/02/2012 02:17 GMT

Nick Clegg: House Of Lords Has Shown It's Out Of Touch

The House of Lords showed it was out of touch with voters' concerns by trying to water down government efforts to slash billions from welfare payments, Nick Clegg said.

A series of defeats inflicted on benefit reforms by peers, including leading bishops, were reversed by MPs on Wednesday despite protests from disability and poverty campaigners.

Senior Tories have accused ministers of treating the Lords with "contempt" by using parliamentary convention to prevent the upper chamber proposing further changes in key areas.

Interviewed by parliament's The House magazine in the wake of the defeats, Clegg, who is leading efforts to reform the Lords, suggested it was irrelevant to the public.

Clegg also hinted that party colleague David Laws, forced to resign in 2010 over his Commons expenses, could return even if there was not a Cabinet-level vacancy.

"What I would like to see David do is to be close to the centre of power in one shape or form with ideally quite a broad view of Government policy because I think he's got an ability to see the connections between policies which is quite unusual," he said.

On the Lords, he said: "When people are trying to pay the bills, and are worried about their jobs, and are worried their kids going to college and all the rest of it, I don't think the vast majority of people think about the House of Lords at all," he said.

"I don't think it impinges on their daily life at all. When it does, like it did this week, how can I put this politely? I suspect many people will think: 'I am not sure this is a chamber in real touch with my everyday concerns'."

He defended the opposition of some of his own party's peers to aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill however, saying they had "totally legitimate concerns" over some issues.

They were often being asked to vote in some cases on things they "wouldn't do in a month of Sundays if it was a Liberal Democrat government", he pointed out.

Clegg also expressed his fears that the international stand-off with Iran over its nuclear ambitions could end in conflict or provoke countries such as Israel to launch a military strike.

"Of course I worry that there will be a military conflict and that certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands," he said.

"That's why we have been very much at the forefront of demonstrating to the world that ... there's a big problem - Iran appears to want to illegally or illicitly arm itself with with a nuclear weapon and, secondly, that there are very tough things we can do which are not military steps in order to place pressure on Iran."

He declined to speculate on what stance his party, which opposed the Iraq war, might take in the event of the UK planning to join a military response.

That option could not be taken off the table, he conceded.

"But equally we have been very very clear that we are straining every single sinew to resolve this through a combination of pressure and engagement."