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 710.

    Shouldn't we decide what to do with the Lords? It's pretty hypocritical to for "Democrats" to say we must do something as radical as lords reform, without the people deciding such or even engaging with the public on the issue.

    What we should reform is the system that allows our elected representatives the power to just make sweeping changes to how this country is run without the peoples consent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    @704 Neil
    That is either a lie or you are misinformed. I think you may be confusing the number of voters with the size of the boundaries? But to say Labour has an advantage because they have less voters in their constituancy boundaries is total nonsense. It is the other way around. If PR was this country's voting system the Tories would never hold office again, certainly not a majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    The tories are running rings around the lib dems and all the lib dems can do, is to carry on with this nonsensical coalition because if they leave it now, they are electorally dead! What an utterly crazy, postion to have put yourself into and for what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Great news this goes to 2nd reading. Labour must be certain not to play-out the deliberations and make sure the Tory rebels don't win and that this bill gets through to the end.

    There is a socially progressive majority in this countrt made of many parties and it's about time this was reflected in the make up of at least one house of parliament.

    PR will also allow us to be true to our beliefs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    OMG The Libs still think they have a say in the coalition......Nick Robinson has an article on it. They believe the fight for Lords reform is still on!!??

    They actually think they have power in this coalition....

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    @702 malcolm heard
    But they are not all 'old people'. I presume when you say 'old people' you are refering to hereditary peers? Labour introduced a new system that was designed to introduce specialists in their fields and a more diverse brushstroke of society. Only 20% are hereditary, but that is still too much. The elected Commons can still assert their will and force through legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    @zzgrark (689) Actually you are wrong about boundaries. They are not reviewed based purely on the number of voters. In reality there tend to be less voters in the Labour constituencies. Tories have said equal noumber of voters and that's why it favours them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    Was there a debate like this about cutting the Army by 20,000?

    Or even some discussion before we got rid of Harriers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    it is now the 21th century and yet britain still has the house of lords, never mind having a elected second house, just get rid of this elite club of old people,

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    History tells of MacMillan's 'Night of The Long Knives' when he purged his cabinet

    Tory Junior ministers who voted against the Government can expect Cameron's 'Morning of the smallish Dessert Spoons' be sacked and a return to backbench MP salaries and inflation proof pensions

    LibDem rebellion for Clegg?

    We will not know until after the summer recess.

    Early Election?

    I hope so!

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    I would replace the house of lords and the house of commons with Scottish Independance! Makes perfect sense to me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    What has actually gone wrong with law making that prompts the desire for this so-called "reform"?

    What disaster has there been from which the "lesson to be learned" is that the sysstem that has served for hundreds of years has suddenly failed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Democracy??????????????? Surely it there would be more democratic rightness in allowing the vote to be lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    They think its all over, Nick, it is now. Just give it up Clegg and get ready to sign on like many people who you and the posh boys have put on he dole

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    I am pleased at this because it is not good for a country to have 2 elected bodies. the will of the people is the commons. a bill can be reject only 3 times by the lord. I want to see it made up of people who have earned their postion in their jobs, and the parties only having a set no of seats. so you can made it 450 people only if you want. and the new government cannot alter the balance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    I thought this vote was a deal breaker for the liberals, guess I should have known better after they have let the Tories ride roughshod over everything being liberal stands for. The power of a ministerial limo really is amazing, although they better enjoy them while they can. Because they are on their way out, GUARANTEED.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    Conservatives :

    Pro American - indistinguishable from Republican /Tea Party
    Rabidly anti EU
    Pro Trident - Atlantic Bridge
    Pro Tax scam (in all but name)
    Pro Murdoch
    NHS abolitionists
    Anti bank regulation

    Lib dems:

    Pro Lords reform
    Pro EU
    Anti Trident
    Pro tax collection
    Pro bank regulation (well Vince at least)
    Anti Murdoch (well Vince at least)

    Coalition's as strong as it's always been

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Am I the only one that thinks that the present reform proposals are misdirected. It is the House of Charlatans (sorry Commons) that is dire need of reform.
    How about 5 years non-political work as an entry requirement. Only two parliaments - more pay but no expenses or pension. The list is endless1

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    tommy sheridan will bring the house down

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    They are playing Russian Roulette with the pistol aimed at our heads and insisting we pay for the bullets.

    Have we ever had such a bunch of inept wasters running OUR country?


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