Labour set to throw beleaguered Clegg a Lords reform lifeline

Miliband's change of heart will save Liberal Democrat leader from humiliating defeat

Labour will throw Nick Clegg a lifeline over his trouble-hit plans for an elected House of Lords, which have run into opposition from all three main parties.

Until now, Ed Miliband has refused to endorse the Deputy Prime Minister's blueprint for 80 per cent of the second chamber to be elected on the grounds that Labour supported a wholly-elected Lords at the 2010 election and a referendum on the issue. Labour's hostility led to growing fears among the Liberal Democrats that Mr Clegg's historic shake-up would fall at its first hurdle by being defeated in the Commons by a rebellion by Tory backbenchers and Labour's refusal to support his Bill.

In an important change of heart, Labour will now whip its MPs to ensure that the measure is passed by the Commons, where it will start its passage in the new Parliamentary session starting this spring before being debated by the House of Lords. "We will show some flexibility to make sure the Bill gets to the Lords," one Labour source said yesterday. "We will not die in the ditch for a 100 per cent elected House or a referendum."

Labour's switch will bring some relief to Mr Clegg, as it should lift the threat of him suffering a humiliating defeat in the Commons. However, Labour's decision is not as generous as it looks. Mr Miliband is making no commitment to help Mr Clegg force his controversial Bill through the Lords, where many Labour peers are already queuing up to oppose it. If the Labour leader does not come to the aid of Mr Clegg there, he may be accused of opportunism in allowing the Bill to pass the Commons so that it becomes bogged down in the Lords, as many peers refuse to vote themselves out of a job – including some Liberal Democrats.

Although Lords reform is in the Coalition Agreement struck in 2010, there are doubts over whether David Cameron will "go to the wire" and allow an issue of little interest to most voters to dominate Parliament for up to two years.

Mr Clegg told a committee of MPs and peers on Monday that the shake-up is a "clear ambition" for the Government. He indicated that MPs would be whipped to support the legislation like "any other Government business", and cited the Prime Minister's support for using the Parliament Act to override the opposition in the Lords.

However, some senior Tories doubt that Mr Clegg's full plan will become law before the next election in 2015. There is growing speculation that the Bill will be blocked or the Government will settle for a small proportion of peers to be elected, with agreement to revisit the issue in a future parliament.

One Tory source said: "Nick Clegg is determined to push ahead with this. He sees it as his legacy after 100 years of failed attempts to reform the Lords. We have tried to talk him out of it. He knows it won't impress the man in the pub but he believes it is a scandal that the second chamber is appointed."

Yesterday Lord Dobbs, a former Conservative Party deputy chairman, warned: "Some of my fellow peers have threatened to become unwavering rebels and wreck the government's legislative programme if the threatened miserable mess of potage is served up in the Queen's Speech."

The Tory peer insisted the Coalition Agreement committed the Government only to bring forward proposals on Lords reform: "Nowhere does it talk about a strict timetable for legislation or using the muscle of the whips to force proposals through."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there