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."


  • 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

    Comment number 266.

    Aside from arguments about Lords reform, the actions of these 91 Tory MPs show where their real priorities are,

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    It's an indictment of the Tories that the biggest anti Government vote we've seen from them is against a bill that would give a little more democracy to the country. They are just trying to feather their collective future nests as the Lords is where they aspire to. There can be no hope for banking reform whils this party of self interest remains in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Only Michael (slippery as an eel) Gove could turn this into a victory for the Government,
    "We have had the biggest vote in favour of House of Lords reform ever"
    A pyrrhic victory as the warm glow of the coalition turns to a raging inferno.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    a rebellion by tory ministers is indeed important news .

    But only the most die hard opertunists would rate it as more significant than the vote on the lords itself .

    Lords reforms will last centuries , this administrations life can be measured in months .

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Does any of this rally matter? By the next election, there will have been debates, a commission, some committees, and nothing will have happened. By then, the Weird Beard party will go back to having their conferences in phone boxes and dear old Nick Clegg will have been shuffled off to Brussels as EU High Commissioner for Inter-Governmental Stationery Harmonisation or something similar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    so the tories voted to keep their lords and masters happy, to keep the establishment happy.
    no cut to the lords, no changes felt by the high and mighty.
    some things simply do not change.
    we voted for change, yet the changes being implemented are not quite what we were lead to believe.
    so many promises broken, lies told, lifes ruined.
    call it hypocracy,
    i call it consevativism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    MPs(124) who possibly think they are in line for a peerage and a place in the lords are against reform so there should be an embargo on awarding peerages to anyone in the commons now or in the past, as of today. The Lords would then not increase in no. and would gradually decrease through natural wastage until such time as an agreement is reached re. reform.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    I wonder now if Cameron really does support reform, or if he secretly doesn't want it
    Still, this will really set the two parties against each other. This coalition won't last much longer and things are about to get tense
    Never mind the olympics, the Coaltion games are gong to be the best entertainment on. Let the games begin!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Those who claim to be committed to Lords' reform as it has been proposed are not Conservatives! This is a hash compiled by party politicians in the Commons for party politicians in the Commons and will not make anyone in this country better off except perhaps those in the Lower House. It certainly won't make the the people of Britain better represented whatever the politician says.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    @238 JamesStGeorge

    I tend to agree. This is a self serving act that has little to nothing to do with the betterment of the nation. If the MPs were a union we could happily apply the same rhetoric that MPs apply to union action.

    No one can, reasonably, argue for the maintenance of the status quo -- as it stands the HoL is anti-democratic. To block change is equally undemocratic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Appointees are a non starter, they will be mates of those appointing.
    Elected are same corrupt political class.
    Only 2 options remain. Jury style or hereditaries.
    Jury way has problems, life disruption, avoidance etc.
    Herreds have all the advantages random by birth, long time perspective rooted to this nation, age, elders seem most before.
    Unblock HoL passable only by referendum power to US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Supporting a Bill on Lords Reform was NOT part of the coalition agreement. The only deal was to establish a committee to bring forward proposals and seek a consensus.

    The words are on page 27 of this document.


  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Westminster Government disintegrates due to insider wranglings while the nation impatiently waits

    Meanwhile the economy sinks further, families lose their homes, & young unemployed sleep rough on streets

    It is time for a new type government entirely, the old one clearly fallen to bits. & they expect us to vote for them next time

    You must be joking. No mandate to govern? Get rid of them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    We now need a 3rd Way in British politicts. one that is not polarised, not right or left

    In my opinion, the majority of people who ACTUALLY bother to vote, tick their ballot paper reluctantly one way or the other, the better of two evil`s, so we have a swath of people looking for a credible alternative

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    "The coalition has suffered its biggest rebellion since it came to power. . ."
    I recall that some years ago some journalist getting a right ticking off for saying something like that. "They're not in power: they're in office" the criticism ran, power, of course belonging to the people they serve. But that was then, and this is now. . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    The most common Previous occupation for members of the HoL is now MP. Do we really want a second house consisting of nothing but elected party yes men, surely there is enough of them in the commons. The HoL does need reform but it needs reform on none political lines with people more used to running businesses and keeping and dispensing law and order, responsible to the electorate not any party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    To solve the appointments to the HOL.
    Just advertise the vacancies at local job centres after all by the time this lot have got through, thats where the biggest talent pool will be spending most of their time. Graduates, ex Soldiers, Policemen, Bankers(maybe not) you get my drift..

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Lib Dems are correct that House of Lords reform is important, so they should support full debate in parliament and, preferably, a referendum.

    The gov't should not try to force through such a ridiculous bill. Single, 15-year terms is not accountability - it removes incentives to listen to voters; party lists chosen primarily by Clegg, Cameron and Milliband retains a major element of appointment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    While we have an un-elected chamber in our legislative body we are not living in a democracy. End of debate.

    It is disappointing to see the amount of irrelevant comment on this subject. It's not about political cronyism. It's about removing it. It's not about preventing a great programme of legislation to put the economy right. There is no such programme on offer.

    It's about democracy, stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    The House of Lords should consist of politically neutral members who would make decisions on the issues, that they are given to consider, in an unbiased manner and bring balance to the legislative process. It should not be composed of elected "puppets" of those in Government which ever party is in office.


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