Future of UK coalition at risk in Lords reform row
PLANS for reform of Britain's House of Lords were thrown into disarray yesterday after the government ditched plans for a timetable motion to limit detailed scrutiny of the legislation to 10 days.
The retreat saved David Cameron from suffering the coalition's first Commons defeat in a whipped vote -- but opened up the prospect of opponents of change blocking the legislation by dragging out the debate until time runs out.
It also threatens to place immense strain on the coalition, as Lords reform is the a key priority of the Liberal Democrats, following their defeat in a referendum on reform of Westminster elections last year.
One senior Tory backbencher today predicted that the decision could lead to the collapse of the coalition and bring forward the date of the next general election.
Announcing the decision to drop the "programme motion", Leader of the Commons Sir George Young blamed Labour for siding with Tory rebels.
The announcement came just hours after Prime Minister David Cameron had issued a last-ditch appeal to Labour leader Ed Miliband to rethink his plans to vote with the rebels.
Mr Cameron said he still expected to achieve "a very large majority" in the Commons on the principle of the Bill, which would create a 450-member Upper House of 80pc elected members serving single 15-year terms.
The precise terms of the new timetable are not yet known, but it is likely to provide for many days of debate on the floor of the Commons.
But Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Commons Public Administration Committee and one of the most senior Tory signatories of yesterday's letter, said that the loss of the timetable motion could spark the collapse of the coalition.
"Either House of Lords reform is dead and the coalition gets on to a different track or it risks the continuation of the coalition," he said.
"When a government cannot obtain its business on the floor of the House of Commons it loses its authority.
"If the government takes itself into that hole it could find it very difficult to climb out. It could bring forward the date of the next general election."