Lords reform: Coalition suffers biggest rebellion

 
House of Lords The coalition is at loggerheads over plans to elect 80% of members of the House of Lords

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The coalition has suffered its biggest rebellion since it came to power after 91 Conservative MPs opposed plans for a mainly elected House of Lords.

The government still won the vote on the principle of its proposed reforms to Parliament with a majority of 338.

Nick Clegg called it a "huge triumph", but it came after ministers had ditched a vote to limit time for debating the bill amid signs they would be defeated.

Nick Clegg: "A coalition is like a contract...a deal is a deal"

Lib Dems warned of "consequences" if the Tories failed to back the bill.

Deputy leader Simon Hughes told the BBC that if the Conservatives failed to deliver on this part of the coalition deal, the Lib Dems might not back plans to reform constituency boundaries, "which is advantageous to them".

'Matter of regret'

The key moment of Tuesday's events was the decision of the government to drop the vote on a "programme motion" - which would have set out a timetable for the Lords Reform Bill to get through the Commons.

Labour had planned to join Conservative rebels in opposing that timetabling motion, saying 10 scheduled days of debate was not enough to give proper scrutiny of the reform proposals - which are for a much smaller, 80% elected Lords.

Ministers say they now plan to ask MPs to vote on the timetabling of the bill - regarded as crucial if it is to get through Parliament without being talked out by opponents - in the autumn.

In the vote on the principle of the Lords reform plans, Labour supported the government with the second reading passing by 462 votes to 124, although 26 Labour MPs joined the rebel Conservatives in defying their party leader to vote against.

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The Lib Dems are refusing to accept defeat and insist that Lords reform is not dead”

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The vote enables the legislation to move to the next stage of its parliamentary passage.

But the fallout of the vote on the coalition and on party leaders is the focus of attention on Wednesday.

The number of Tory rebels exceeded the 81 who defied the government over an EU referendum last year and included one ministerial aide, Angie Bray, who has been sacked, and another, Conor Burns, who had resigned earlier.

They also included Graham Brady, chairman of the party's influential 1922 backbench committee, former ministers Sir Malcolm Rifkind, David Davis and Peter Lilley and many MPs elected for the first time in 2010.

'Chain reaction'

Sir Malcolm told BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast he would not rule out getting the bill through parliament by 2015, but said it would be "very difficult" and it would probably have to take a different form.

Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove told BBC Two's Newsnight: "Of course it is a matter of regret to me when I see Conservative colleagues - friends - in a different voting lobby to me."

HOUSE OF LORDS REFORM PLANS

  • 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.

But he said it had been a "good night" for those who believed in House of Lords reform, adding: "We have had the biggest vote in favour of House of Lords reform ever.

"There is now a task for me and for others who believe in reform to persuade our colleagues."

There were also reports of an angry confrontation between Mr Cameron and one of the highest profile of the 2010 election intake of Conservative MPs - Jesse Norman - after he rebelled.

In an email to Liberal Democrat activists, Mr Clegg said: "This is a huge triumph for our party, and a clear mandate to deliver much needed reforms to the House of Lords.

"We have been reasonable and looked at acceptable compromises at every stage. That is why we agreed to withdraw today's timetabling motion, to allow the Conservative team in government take more time over the summer to talk to their backbench colleagues."

But the deputy prime minister added: "When we return in the autumn to vote on this again, we fully expect the Conservatives to deliver this crucial part of the coalition deal - as we have delivered other coalition policies."

Michael Gove: "We have had the biggest vote in favour of House of Lords reform ever"

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the Lib Dems were refusing to accept defeat and were making clear there would be a "heavy price" for the Conservatives if they failed to pursue the case for reform - included in all three parties election manifestos in 2010.

Lib Dem MP David Laws said wrangling over House of Lords reform could lead to a "chain reaction" which threatened the rest of the coalition's programme. The coalition could be less "productive" in other areas if its partners decided to "pick and choose" which policies they would support, he warned.

But a succession of Conservative backbenchers have suggested the proposed legislation on the composition of the Lords should be ditched altogether as the government risked undermining its authority if it proceeded further.

Ms Bray said the government needed to completely rethink its approach and try to build a consensus behind its proposals.

"I believe this bill is basically dead," she told the BBC. "There is no desire for it."

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 246.

    Under these proposals, supported by Cameron and Clegg, members of the Lords would be elected by Proportional Representation.
    It did not take Cameron and Clegg long to forget that we had a referendum on a PR voting system, and overwhelmingly rejected the idea.
    Obviously, our opinion is less important than the political game of footsie being played by the Coalition leaders.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 245.

    House of Lords members should be appointed by a panel consisting of a cross-section of MP's and experts. It should be 100% appointed with no hereditary places and no religious places. Its job is a revision chamber that revises and amends legislation sent from the Commons. Simple.

    There are so many problems with making it elected that I don't have space on here to spell them out. Cost is one.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 244.

    What Nick Clegg needs to ask himself today is this.
    "If David Cameron cannot whip his troops into line to back us on a vote which was always going to be a landslide (as it had all party support) then when can he?"
    The answer is never. This is a coalition in name only. The only function of the Liberal Democrats is to prop up a government with no mandate for its ever more extreme policies.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 243.

    @Fred: the HOC votes politically because they're elected. If the HOL was elected, they would too!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 242.

    The only reason an MP is ousted from his post of representation is that they no longer fulfill the needs of thier electorate and they have been rejected. This surely makes them unfit to be placed in the HOL as they have been found wanting!
    What a surprise that the Tories will be the ones most put out by elected lords reform, poor souls another trough disappears.HeHe!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 241.

    I should imagine the Tories will always be in favour of an honours (cronyism) system which includes peerages. So it would be a rather malformed beast which is likely to emerge from their 'reforms'. The main problem with it, should they succeed, would be the time it takes to get rid of it. It's hopeless expecting them to look to the future, their hearts are in the past.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 240.

    The Life Of Brian , part two, starring Nick Clegg - Scene 34 - Brian in the Colosseum with his gang (Clegg in house of commons with the lib dems after hearing last nights vote ) Splittttttttttttttttters !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 239.

    The system is the wrong way round anyway. Policy should be formed by experts (eg economists make economic policy) rather than people whose only training is in name-calling and point-scoring (i.e. local politics).

    The experts can then be held to account by elected lay people (MPs), who decide on the basis of what they, or their constituents, think - not what their boss tells them to think.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 238.

    172Under-Used
    #A second chamber with a greater capacity to hold the HoC to account#

    Not as they want, it won't. Only their mates on the party list get in. ALL from the same political class lot in the Commons. This is only about jobs for the boys as far as they are concerned. That's solely why they agree. It should be hereditaries only, keeps parties out. Bypass Lords block by referendum only.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 237.

    I'd far rather see an entirely appointed House of Lords than an entirely elected one. We need expertise in there - legal, political, financial, diplomatic, social, artistic, medical, educational and technical - so that legislation is scrutinised by people who are knowledgable and wise.
    We do NOT need another chamber of professional politicians - with all that that implies.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 236.

    Presumably those calling for a wholly appointed second chamber are just wanting to book their own places on the gravy train for when they get "retired" out of the Commons by us mere voters?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 235.

    There is no will from the people of the UK to get rid of the "professional" politicians. Its the only job in the uk where you can have huge amounts of power, but need no training in the area of policy you are working in. George Osbourne thinks a degree in modern history is the right qualification to be chancellor of the exchequer- we need someone with economics there!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 234.

    What made me laugh when I first heard about it was that it was being debated in the HoL - Yeah - they were really likely to pass a bill that cuts their numbers drastically, forces 80% of them to be elected and that they should take a pay cut to less than that of MP's salaries. All in all it's not like the government really thought about how to get the HoL on side is it?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 233.

    Who, exactly, would these 'Lords' be elected by? Stop messing around with things that work, and start fixing our real issues - the economy and the 3 main parties!!!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 232.

    did i hear correctly a seated mp in the debate state his aim was to be elected to the lords? the conciet of the fellow these elected lords are nothing more than puppets of their parties, blair and his cohorts did damage wanting to kill off the lords so the commons would have a free hand to impliment policy.
    the whole concept needs revision and career polititions should be banned

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 231.

    I would get rid of the House of Lords full stop, if 625 Mp's can't come up with the right decision between them first time, then they shouldn't be in there in the first place. It would have been nice to see the Tory Mp's rebel on issues that really concern us like the EU. I am an ex Tory who hates those looking after their own interests.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 230.

    If this Government had any sense it would be ensuring the economy is sorted before embarking on frivolous messing with our constitution for political gain.

    They haven't even tackled pensions and old age provision let alone the HS2 bill.

    Woeful

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 229.

    So, Mr Clegg, what exactly have you got for your thirty pieces of silver ??

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 228.

    The Lords needs reforming but not to have an elected chamber full of the same politicians as the Commons - that would just be a travesty of democracy.

    There should be no hereditary peer and certainly no bishops or representatives of any religeous groups.Doctrine should not have influence on the law for everyone.

    Experience from all walks of life appointed by non-political groups.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 227.

    Regarding the much highlighted conundrum of who appoints the HoL appointees, why not randomly select national insurance numbers to serve for a short fixed period. Clearly this suggestion is flawed and nonsense but would it be any worse than the current party system or the proposed elected system?

 

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