Exclusive: Reform Lords – or it will cost you 20 MPs, David Cameron told

Coalition tensions rise as Lib Dems threaten to derail boundary changes

The Liberal Democrats will block boundary changes that would help the Conservatives' election prospects if Nick Clegg's plan for an elected House of Lords is killed off by a Tory revolt.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, a senior aide to Mr Clegg warned there would be "consequences" if up to 100 rebel Tory MPs defeat a motion to cut short debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill so it can make progress through Parliament. A knife-edge vote is expected on Tuesday next week.

"It is a very serious moment for the Government," said Richard Reeves, who stood down yesterday as the Deputy Prime Minister's director of strategy. "The vote is hugely significant. It is the critical moment for Lords reform, a once-in-a-generation chance to secure it."

Mr Reeves warned that the Bill's prospects of becoming law would be "vanishingly small" if the timetable motion was lost. Tory opponents of an 80 per cent elected Lords would then make marathon speeches in the hope of killing the measure.

"There would be broader consequences for the Government's programme, particularly around political and parliamentary reform," he said. "The idea that failure to deliver a government commitment on Lords reform would be consequence-free is for the birds." The other main measure in this area will be a Bill to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and bring in new parliamentary boundaries, which experts believe would benefit the Tories by up to 20 seats at the 2015 general election. Tory chiefs are desperate to bring in the new constituencies, which could make the difference between outright victory and a hung parliament.

Mr Reeves suggested the Liberal Democrats would also retaliate if Tory rebels joined with Labour to make the Lords shake-up subject to a referendum. That would scupper Mr Clegg's plan for the first elected peers to be chosen at the 2015 poll. In that event, the Liberal Democrats would delay the boundary changes so they did not take effect until after the 2015 election.

But Mr Reeves said the Liberal Democrats would not walk out of the Coalition, which would be "crazy", or block Tory public service reforms.

The outgoing adviser said the Lords Bill "goes to the heart of what coalition is about – making and keeping deals". He added: "Anyone who thinks Nick Clegg will shrug his shoulders [after a defeat], say 'never mind' and 'everyone tried our best', will be in for a rude awakening. That is not going to happen." Reflecting Mr Clegg's message to David Cameron in their private talks about the Lords vote, Mr Reeves said: "A deal is a deal."

The Liberal Democrats claim there is a Coalition trade-off under which they back the boundary changes, in return for the Tories securing reforms that would see peers elected under proportional representation.

Although Tory whips are working overtime to try to head off a government defeat next week, senior Conservatives deny there is such a deal. They insist the trade-off was between the new boundaries and a referendum on the voting system, which was lost last year.

The Government's majority is at risk next Tuesday because Labour will oppose the timetable motion, even though it supports the Bill. Mr Reeves accused Labour of "acting like teenage boys who want to torture the cat for as long as possible, before killing it."

Mr Reeves admitted that defeat on Mr Clegg's flagship measure would be "damaging" for the Liberal Democrat leader's credibility. He said his party's MPs had had to "hold their noses" in Commons votes for the sake of the Coalition on many more occasions than the Tories.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee