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Lords bill is ‘a dead duck’ following Tory rebellion

Reform of the House of Lords has been halted – for now – after 91 Conservative MPs rebelled against the Government and a three-line whip.

Yesterday the Government was forced to withdraw its programme motion, which aimed to limit the debate to ten days, as Labour made it clear it would vote with the rebels against the timetable.

But Labour MPs gave their backing to the second reading of the Bill, so the vote was won 462 to 124.

The rebellion was led by Conservative MP Jesse Norman, who was confronted by Cameron in front of colleagues for his actions. Many MPs were shocked at the Prime Minister’s public show of aggression, commenting thatNormanwas well-liked and not at all malicious. Later four whips privately confrontedNormanand requested that he leave Parliament.

Normantold Radio 4’s PM programme: “The Bill is a dead duck. The question is how long will the Government go on before it recognises that and how much further will it have to go in putting the country through a lot of additional pain when the real energies of parliament and the Government should be focused on fixing the howling economic gale that we are now in.”

Tory MP Conor Burns resigned as a ministerial aide to vote against the Bill and Angie Bray was sacked as a ministerial aide to the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

Many were surprised by the size of the rebellion, particularly from new MPs tipped for ministerial office.

Labour defended the decision to reject a timetable for the debate. Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, told the BBC: “This is not a wrecking tactic – far from it. 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. The future of a reformed House of Lords should be all the better as a result.”

Ministers plan to revive the Bill in the autumn, and Prime Minister David Cameron believes he can persuade some of the rebels to accept reform.

In an email to Liberal Democrat activists Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote: “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.”

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(Image of the House of Lords Chamber: Parliamentary copyright, reproduced with the permission of Parliament)


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