Lords reform: Government abandons crucial vote amid likely defeat


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The coalition has dropped plans for a crucial vote on its plans to reform the House of Lords after it faced likely defeat over the issue.

Dozens of Conservatives were expected to defy the government and oppose the plan to limit the time available for debating plans for proposed changes.

But the government later won a separate vote on the principle behind a mainly elected chamber with a majority of 338.

But 91 Conservative MPs voted against the bill as a whole.

One of the rebels, Angie Bray, has been sacked from her role as a ministerial aide.

The vote means that proposals for an 80% elected House of Lords that is half its current size will proceed to their next stage of parliamentary scrutiny in the autumn.


Nick Clegg's dream of reform of the House of Lords has slipped away.

Not forever, not yet anyway, but it's suffered a very significant setback.

The reason: David Cameron couldn't deliver the numbers.

And it is, ultimately, a numbers game.

The prime minister was facing a massive rebellion, so he decided to step back, apparently telling his deputy he needed more time to garner support from the Tory side.

So the government has opted for another go in the autumn, when it says it will try, again, to get support for a programme motion.

On the face of it it weakens both men. One couldn't persuade a sizeable chunk of his own MPs to back a key part of the coalition's policy programme.

The other has failed the first test in delivering what he hoped would be a key legacy of his time in office.

The more Machiavellian view is of a prime minister who sanctioned a soft whipping operation and who wanted to see the prospect of an insurrection in the 100+ category.

And also of a man who is content to present his coalition partner with the harsh reality of another delay on the road to reforming the Lords.

But critics said the whole future of the bill has been thrown into doubt by the government's decision not to put a so-called programme motion to a vote. This would have limited the time for future debate on the proposed changes in the House of Commons to 10 days.

The government had been facing defeat on the vote and Lib Dem sources say Prime Minister David Cameron told his deputy Nick Clegg that the timetabling motion should be pulled to gather support for it among Conservatives over the next two months.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said a spokesman for Mr Clegg had declared "a plague on both their houses" when asked whether he blamed the Conservatives or Labour for the setback.

Labour and rebel Conservative MPs said this did not allow enough time to discuss a crucial constitutional change.

Commons leader Sir George Young told MPs the timetabling vote would be postponed until after the summer recess.

He blamed Labour for the climbdown, saying the opposition was not prepared to support the government in Tuesday's vote despite supporting the idea of changes to the Lords. "It needs those that support reform to vote for reform," he said.

The government "remain committed to making progress" on changing the composition of the Lords, he stressed.

Responding to the setback, Foreign Secretary William Hague said all parties must "try to establish a better consensus", while former Lib Dem minister David Laws said it was "frustrating" but the government would return to the issue in two months and "expect to win".

But Tory MP Conor Burns resigned from his position as a ministerial aide in the Northern Ireland Office in protest at the plans.

And Tory backbencher Jesse Norman said the government had backed down because of the scale of the likely rebellion on the Conservative benches and the proposals were now a "dead duck".



  • A smaller chamber - reduced from 826 members to 450.
  • The majority, 80%, of members would be elected - at the moment nearly all peers are appointed either by political parties or by the independent House of Lords Commission.
  • But 90 members, 20%, would still be appointed, by an Appointments Commission, on a non-party basis.
  • Time-limited membership - Once elected, peers would serve a non-renewable 15-year term instead of being members for life.
  • A reduced number of bishops - The number of Church of England bishops would be cut from 26 to 12.
  • No more Lords and Baronesses - The chamber would still be called the House of Lords but members would not have the title "Lord". Parliament to choose a new name for members.

And Bernard Jenkin, one of the leading Conservative opponents of the plans, questioned the future of the entire legislation.

"Whatever moral authority the bill had, it has now lost," he said.

Labour described the decision not to press ahead with a vote on the issue of the time allocated for debate as a "victory for Parliament".

"This is not a wrecking tactic - far from it," said shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan. "We've already given our assurances we'll do all we can to ensure the bill progresses. Instead, it's about making good an inadequate bill.

"And that means allowing Parliament the time to revise, amend and improve the bill free from the threat of debate being stifled."

Commons Speaker John Bercow has told MPs that the parliamentary rules mean that even if - as expected - the bill is given a second reading it will not move on to the next stage of the parliamentary process.

Before it can be considered again, MPs will first need to vote for a committal motion that will formally send the bill into committee.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    once again we see the fact no tory has any morals and anything they say needs to be double checked with an honest person.
    Clegg have you not figured it out yet?
    Everything you want will just like the PP fiasco be opposed by the tories in such a way they can claim its not their fault while you will keep on selling out what little morals you have to hang on to your none existant power

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    The real headlines will be that after failing to deliver any of his key manifesto promises Nick Clegg has resigned as a matter of principle. However, I think that ministerial office, pay and pension may outweigh those principles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    they dont need to be elected their job is revisionary so like judges get some independent panel to appoint them

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    If they debate it till May 7 2015 that would be good, it means they wont be able to cock anything else up in the meanwhile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Good, focus on the economy more rather than this nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    10 days was never enough to debate such a fundamental issue, but like AV, Clegg was pushing to get any reform through as quickly as possible, because he knows that it's going to be the only way the LibDems will have any representation at Westminster. Maybe he secretly wishes that he could emulate Asquith's failed ambition to flood the upper house with LibDems - in your dreams Nick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    At least the House of Lords seem to know what they doing which is more than can be said about the coalition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    I refuse to let this side-show distract my attention.

    Clinton spoke for the UK in 2012... "It's the economy - stupid!"

    We are a trading nation. Our fortunes depend upon our ability to beat the competition within a global market place. How we do the business is something future historians can debate. Our collective job is to win.

    HOL reform can wait for another day.

    Now... these bankers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I've now started fully advocating a resource based economy simply because I'm sick of the politicians being childish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Get rid of the Lords altogether or leave it alone.

    I see no point in reform unless they can do more than delay or suggest modifications to a bill.

    Experts are already called at various stages of a bill and the Commons either listens to them or not. It would be no different with a whole House of them.

    And I don't want another House of career politicians, particularly not elected for 15 years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Far more important than HoL is the depths to which this country's standing has been allowed to sink through cover ups collusion corruption and inaction.
    Our pitiful administration is now more readily associated with banana republics.

    Oh, the irony...

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    It seems we have a decent core of MP's who are not prepared to be walked all over . This is a time wasting bill at a time when we need to disscuss more important issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    While there is a case to make that such a wide-reaching constitutional change should get a longer time to be debated, it has been clear for some time that the majority of the Tory rebels have no interest in getting rid of this antiquated second chamber. It is all self-interest and that party's lingering, deep-seated opposition to democracy. They are a disgrace to this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Comments from armed forces ! Hundreds of the beautiful youth of this nation disgracefully sacrificed on the altar of failed international politics and failed international diplomacy over past decades.Yet the Forces decimated by a Tory led coalition government whilst, simultaneously, fat cat Bollinger bingeing bankers, having deliberately robbed British tax payers are still regarded as untouchable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    If at first you can't succeed, cancel the whole thing and pretend that's what you intended all along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    On balance I'm relieved that the flawed HoL we have is not to be replaced with an arguably-perhaps-bit-less-flawed one, with which we'd be stuck for generations.

    The door remains open for sensible change, to a proper basis, a non-political Appointments Commission, for appointing peers on good reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Thank God Snooty has backed off. If he hadn’t, I think the result would have been a general election which would lead to a Tory Government with a majority – Labour will never be elected with Ed M as leader and the Lib-Dems are finished after Clegg’s opportunism so what it the only alternative?. I never thought I’d say it, but thank you Tory rebels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Good to see that the Tories understand that the Liberal Democrats are the only reason that they are in government at all. The point of a coalition is that each member has to compromise core beliefs to be placed in a position where they can control others. TheLDs dropping important issues like tuition fees and NHS reform in exchange for constitutional reform. Time for them to walk I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    Bernard Jenkin has pointed out to David Cameron that Canute desisted from trying to repel the waves when his underlings told him it wouldn't work. What he omitted to tell Dave was that Canute, after winning his battles, had the habit of castrating the defeated. He wasn't a nice man. Just watch it, Nick!

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    220. aphoristic
    "For the sake of all that is holy when is someone going to form a new political party that is worth voting for!!????"

    The Peoples Party!
    They better get their skates on and get it created before it's too late.


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