Coalition shaken as Cameron ducks out of vote on Lords

Rebels shoot down 'dead duck' Lords reform as 91 Tories vote against Bill

David Cameron and Nick Clegg were forced into a humiliating last-minute retreat last night to head off a defeat over plans for an elected House of Lords. The Prime Minister and his deputy blinked first in a stand-off with more than 100 rebel Conservative MPs who oppose Mr Clegg's flagship reform of the second chamber, cancelling the critical second vote in the Commons.

The Tory rebels believe their symbolic victory means they will be able to prevent the measure making progress. After a dramatic day, the Bill was given a second reading by 462 to 124 last night – a Government majority of 338. In the biggest Tory rebellion since the last election, 91 Tories voted against the measure and an estimated 50 abstained – a sign of the trouble that lies ahead. Some 26 Labour MPs opposed the Bill.

Conor Burns resigned as a parliamentary aide to join the revolt and Angie Bray, another ministerial aide, was sacked for opposing the Bill. She said: "What we have got here is a capitulation. The Government whips have blinked first."

In a final attempt to salvage some reforms of the Lords, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg will put pressure on Labour to support them in a crunch Commons vote in the autumn. But there is little sign the Opposition will rescue the Coalition from its turmoil over the Bill and Labour may opt to prolong the Government's agony.

An alliance between the Opposition and rebel Tories meant the Coalition faced certain defeat last night on a timetable motion to prevent opponents talking the Bill out by making marathon speeches.

Tory whips predicted the Coalition Government would suffer its first defeat by a margin of between 20 and 30 votes. Mr Cameron decided yesterday morning that delaying this critical vote until the autumn was the lesser of two evils. A reluctant Mr Clegg eventually agreed yesterday afternoon.

The Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders appear divided over the way forward. Mr Cameron intends to water down the Bill by the autumn to try to win over some of the Tory opponents.

That could include scrapping plans for peers to be elected under proportional representation to serve 15-year terms without facing the voters again. Another option would be stronger safeguards to prevent the second chamber challenging the supremacy of the Commons.

But Clegg aides insisted he would fight to preserve the current Bill and declared that it is "still alive" after what they called a "tactical retreat".

Senior Liberal Democrats renewed their threat to block Tory proposals if Mr Cameron fails to force his MPs into line. David Laws, the former Cabinet minister, said there could be "serious consequences", adding: "The important thing in coalition is that when you enter into these promises to each other you've got to keep them." Asked whether Mr Clegg blamed the Tories or Labour, his spokesman replied: "A plague on both their houses."

Although Mr Cameron was outgunned by his own backbenchers, last night's U-turn will be seen as a more severe setback for Mr Clegg, who hoped to win the 100-year battle to reform the Lords as part of his legacy. His prospects of securing historic change are less likely and he may have to settle for a much-diluted Bill.

Tory rebels hope the outcome will be a minimalist Bill which reduces the number of peers, removes the remaining 92 hereditary peers and ends patronage by having members appointed by an independent commission. They want to kill Mr Clegg's plan for 80 per cent of the members to be elected and now sense blood.

While ministers blamed their climbdown on Labour's decision to "play politics" with the issue, triumphant Tory rebels claimed the victory was theirs.

Jesse Norman, a normally loyal Cameron ally who was confronted by Tory whips in angry scenes last night after he led the revolt, said: "The Bill is a dead duck. The question is how long will the Government go on before it recognises that."

Lord Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat peer, said: "This is now a real test of leadership for all three party leaders. Nick Clegg must hold his nerve. David Cameron must not cringe to the Tory dinosaurs now they have tasted blood. Most important of all, Ed Miliband must show he is a real reformer."

A Labour source said: "We will not be the blockers. We will help the Bill reach the Lords when the time is right."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Primary Teaching Jobs Available NOW-Southport

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

KS2 Teacher

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad education are working...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London