Peers are being warned they could be forced to sit through the night – and have their half-term break delayed – if they continue to thwart moves to hold a referendum on electoral reform.
The Bill paving the way for a nationwide vote on 5 May on scrapping the first-past-the-post system needs to pass into law by 24 February. But the House of Lords has inflicted a series of defeats on it, raising fears that the referendum plan could be scuppered.
The Government is seeking to overturn the defeats, notably a demand by the Lords that the result of the plebiscite on replacing the system with the alternative vote (AV) should only stand if 40 per cent of the population turns out on 5 May.
Peers would be required to sit all night if a trial of strength developed with the Commons, which has already supported the Bill, sources said. They also signalled that they would delay the start of the 11-day recess, due to begin in the House of Lords on Wednesday.
A ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday yesterday gave heart to campaigners pressing for electoral reform. It found that 40 per cent of people favoured a switch to AV, while 30 per cent wanted to retain the current system. The four-point increase in support for the Yes campaign since last month came directly from those who were previously undecided.