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 326.

    1. Exactly what is democratic about a party in power revising constituency boundaries in order to weigh the odds in favour of its re-election?

    2. Why is this not a corrupt and criminal practice?

    3. Why has this issue never been given over to independent adjudication?

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Does anyone outside the "political bubble" actually give a flying damn about lord reform -- WHO CARES, focus on something more important...! LOL!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    So because all 3 parties had HoL reform as a manifesto line we effectively have no say in this as the electorate. I like the idea of some reform (smaller, no nepotism), but I want a 2nd chamber of ability & expertise, not party stooges. Reform the appointment process. 'What have we to fear?' pro-reformers say... more Nick Cleggs, I say!

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Despite what the Liberal democrats says. They are transforming the house lords from an amending chamber (because its unelected), to potentially something that can effect the primacy of the House commons and therefore DEADLOCK or Rubber stamp bills depending who was flavour of the month at the start of their 15 year term in office.

    Therefore a referendum has to be called.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    4 Minutes ago
    @ #297:

    On the contrary, seeing as this is something that all major parties claimed in their manifestos they supported, a good 90%+ of people actually voted for it, and contrary to your comment, it seems the Lib Dems are the only ones serious about giving people what they voted for.
    What happened to the EU referendum???

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    Mid term the Lib Dems wanted to show they can flex some muscle and differentiate themselves from the tories. but will the electorate forget Tuition fees/NHS reform etc. After all 'They are all in this together'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    237 JABooth
    "I'd far rather see an entirely appointed House of Lords than an entirely elected one" - absolutely. But the question is how to appoint?

    There should be a cross-party committee of MPs charged with bringing names forward for approval by the whole house. Their remit should require them to ensure a balance of experience and expertise across all areas-with no more than 15% former MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    The more I think about it, the more I believe that my (at the time tongue in cheek) suggestion yesterday that the way to reform the Lords is to allow governments to rig votes in that House by removing members, instead of adding new ones, is actually a practical solution.
    The object of the exercise was always to reduce numbers, not make it any more democratic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    Why people vote tory is a mystery to me. They are the aprty of the elites, always have been. They DO NOT believe in the rights of the people no matter what they say, and as for a written constitution.................
    The sooner the anachronism of monarchy etc is eliminated in this country the better it will be. Other countries seem to cope better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    @ #297:

    On the contrary, seeing as this is something that all major parties claimed in their manifestos they supported, a good 90%+ of people actually voted for it, and contrary to your comment, it seems the Lib Dems are the only ones serious about giving people what they voted for.

    Of all policies you could've picked, you picked the one that makes your rant completely and utterly wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    election of HoL is the only way forward.
    to select Lords as happens at the moment is undemocratic.
    who is the selector.....at the moment the political parties.
    the candidates should not have strong political affiliations and the voters should be warned not to vote for anyone who displays strong political bias.
    and no seating division.
    but the number of lords must be reduced for sanity's sake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    This is what we tories are all about 'conserving the status quo'. And lets face it lords reform is only one step away from the reforming the non democratic institution of the monarchy. lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    3 Hours ago

    Good, now let`s leave this stupid proposal in the long grass, where it`s been kicked. can you imagine and elected lords? stuffed with people elected along party lines and these will be the people charged with holding the HoC to account, what a joke."

    And stuffing the Lords with unaccountable political cronies is a much better idea?

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Any chance of following the Egyptian model and using the Courts to dissolve the House of Commons?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Income-Equality for 'representation'

    But every Bill to have 'jury' of twenty

    To be 'persuaded', at least 18/20, 'majority verdict'

    Like the Lords, able to ask reconsideration, twice to delay

    From age-stratified random selection, four per decile-cohort

    20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69

    To 'weight' the future, filtered all to be parents

    Trusted to represent childless friends & relatives

  • Comment number 311.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    There's only one solution to the House of Lords - get rid of it. Such titles only reinforce the class system so prevalent in this country. If we need an upper chamber then let it be elected on merit and without titles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Our tory rebel friends are not particularly interested in democracy or specific issues with these proposed reforms of the lords, they are more interested in protecting their probable future jobs and as such their privilege and wealth!

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    If we must reform the House of Lords, how about not only denying access to failed/retired MPs but ejecting existing members who are failed/retired MPs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    @286 agree totally
    15 years is too long, some of the law lords and bishops like to think of themselves as indispensable, but give others a chance, there are some ethical and smart people out there who might have corrected the corruption and mistakes of the past ten years.
    Also please no ex MPs, after the moral wasteland they have made of the House of Commons ...........


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