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 306.

    Lords reform is going ahead. The Tories want the boundary changes and, as far as I read, they need the LibDem support. There is some public discussion around the details (which seams the LD way) but they will get what they want. Who cares about the economy - if Tories get the boundary changes, they are in a stronger position to win the next election, regardless of the state of the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    The only problem with the House of Lords right now is the way new Lords are created. The Lords, it's members and the way it operates should not be influenced in anyway by the Commons.

    If the Commons want to muck about with the structure of parliament then perhaps, given that it's a huge constitutional issue, the British public should have their say in a referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Why would the Tories vote in favour of HOL reform? after all is said and done this is their private retirement club!

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Some quotes on David Cameron:

    "I wouldn't trust him with my daughter's pocket money"
    Jeff Randall Sky News

    "Smarmy, poisonous, slippery"
    Ian King Financial Journalist

    "He never wasted time chatting to people he thought were unimportant"
    Cameron's Biographers

    "He is an out and out opportunist, I don't believe he believes anything"
    Robin Harris Tory research department

    ... enough or, too much!

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    So let me get this straight we need to vote for:
    Local MP. (Westminister)
    Lords MP ( To be..)
    Euro MP
    Devolved MP ( Scotland, Wales , NI)
    Local Councillor
    Police Commissioner
    Mayor (if you have one)

    Have I left anyone out? I apologise if I have its just the list is so long. What an utter waste of money we should just vote on the issues directly ourselves. Job Done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    Address the countrys huge financial problems first before you all squable over a very much lesser subject if most of us dont have work anymore who cares how many and how they arrive at the H.o..L.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Cameron,Clegg and Milliband being in favour of reform should stop appointing peerages to politicians now. This would not need any legislation. The Lords would shrink through natural wastage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    Probably now time to call it a day on this sorry coalition and call a general election. Hopefully a new more people friendly government would emerge and spend time on important issues like getting the country back on its feet. How the house of lords runs is not important to many people who are out of work and struggling to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    happy for MPs to move over if the skill sets they have add value and we might not like it but some of these guys are very good at their job!

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    If ever we needed proof that coalition governments didnt work this must be it.
    A minority party out to try and manipulate the system in the hope of retaining some power when they are destroyed at the next election.
    Clegg and Cable are nothing but a bad joke, but yet they try to force their policies that hardly anyone voted for onto the majority, disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Fill the House of Lords with Tory Monkies that only need feeding and cleaning up after, it would save money and get the same results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    The whole issue has already fallen into such disrepute that I can imagine most people not voting anyway. I've mentioned it on Facebook and only one of my friends even commented and that was to say that it would be a waste of time voting.
    And most of my friends clearly feel that it is the House of Commons that requires reforming the most.
    They just don't get it !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Genuine Democracy

    What would Equality mean, for our pockets?

    GDP £1.5tn, pop 60 millions, £24K each

    Less tax as no 'govt spend' on pensions & benefits & basic education

    Say £20K for every orphan, for each man, woman, child, sick, old

    £80K total for family of 2+2

    No 'money worries' for self, family, anyone

    Less for only the lazy or criminal

    Equal-shareholders, dedicated to good work

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Reform is needed in both Houses. Some real democracy would be good.

    A Tory 'rebel' suggested that while political appointees in the Lords was wrong, simply having party political lists of candidates would not be democracy but appointment - she seemed oblivious to the fact that this is also how the Commons works - no real democracy there either.

    "Open your eyes - DON'T believe the lies."

  • Comment number 292.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    269. Adam
    I was actually quite optimistic when I voted Tory in 2010

    So were the Germans when they voted for them in 1932.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Some commentators appear to draw a distinction, preferring appointees rather than more 'elected politicians'. The Hol comprises deposed politicians, 'politicians' like Baroness Warsi who tried but failed to get herself elected, one-colour clerics guided by notions of the supernatural, the self-interested and a host of politicians' friends. We MUST reform this anachronism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    It’s a pity that they never do it when there is an important vote that affect their constituents.

    But when the chance that they may not get a free pass to the gravy train, then it's all men to the pumps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Jesse Norman rebel Tory MP. The latest victim of Flashman.

    Somehow we all knew the rebel MP getting Flashman's finger pointed in his face, would not be ex-SAS man David Davis.

    Cowardly bully-boy Cameron knows how to pick his "victims".

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    283 David
    No, I find him , to be all those things also! Personally I liked him much better , when he was just plain old Kenneth Williams in the Carry on Films!


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