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Lords reform faces Tory rebels as bill is published

The Lords reform bill has been endorsed by the Cabinet and is due to be published today, whilst Tory rebels prepare to oppose the legislation.

The revised 60-clause bill proposes a 450 member, mainly elected second chamber, to be named the Senate. The Government stated there is strong support for the measures and there was no need for a referendum to be held.

Two days have been set aside for the second reading and 10 days for debate. The timetable for the debate has been criticised by Labour and Tory members, who state more time is necessary to discuss the bill.

After being tabled on Wednesday, the bill is expected to receive a second reading in the House of Commons before MPs rise for the summer recess on 17 July. Ministers aim to complete its passage on to the statute book by May next year.

At the last election, all three main parties committed to having a more democratic second chamber. Despite opposing the timetable for debate, Labour is supporting the changes.

But some Tory MPs could resign against the reforms, with ministerial aide Conor Burns the first government backbencher to openly signal his willingness to sacrifice his career.

Burns told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we’re going to have this debate we need to have it at length and in full and we should have it in committee, on the floor of the House of Commons, and we should take as much time as is necessary to do that.

“So on that basis, I would certainly be attracted to voting against any programme motion that would constrain the amount of time parliament can debate this for.

“If I lose my job for something that was a mainstream view within the Conservative party within the last parliament, which serving cabinet ministers held as their view, so be it.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will be setting out reforms for a mainly elected House of Lords that is significantly smaller than the House of Lords at present, where the first elections should be held in May 2015 and where the primacy of the House of Commons will be maintained.

“There was very strong support for the reforms around the cabinet table. It is a government bill. It will be whipped appropriately. If necessary we will use the Parliament Act. The usual rules [for ministerial aides] apply.”

The Parliament Act gives supremacy to the Commons over the Lords. 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told BBC News this morning: “There’s a very simple principle at stake that I think most people would agree with, which is that people who make the laws of the land should be elected by people who have to obey the laws of the land. It’s as simple as that. I think we should just now get on with it. I hope people won’t tie themselves up in knots inWestminster. It’s something the country expects us to do. We should now do it.”

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