Lib Dems ready to sabotage Coalition deal

Pressure on rebellious Tory backbenchers to support complete reform of House of Lords

Liberal Democrat MPs are prepared to sabotage a key plank of the Coalition agreement unless rebellious Conservative backbenchers back down and support a fully elected House of Lord’s, the party’s president suggested yesterday.

Tim Farron told The Independent that the Liberal Democrats would find it impossible to back Tory proposals to reduce the number of MPs is the House of Commons unless Conservative MPs backed his party’s plan for a fully elected second chamber.

The open warfare between backbenchers in both parties is another headache for David Cameron as he struggles to regain the initiative following last month’s budget.

On Thursday he faced unprecedented display of hostility from up to 70 of his own MPs who warned him they would rebel over Lords legislation which is expected to form the centre-piece of the Queen’s Speech.

A number of ministerial aides indicated they would rather resign than support legislation for a largely- or wholly-elected upper chamber, which they say could threaten the primacy of the House of Commons.

However Mr Cameron needs Liberal Democrat support to push through plans to reduce the number of seats in the House of Commons by 50 and re-draw the boundaries to more accurately reflect current demographics. Polling experts say such a move would provide a significant boost to Conservative electoral prospects in 2015.

However some Tory MPs whose seats face being abolished in the boundary review may not be unhappy – on personal grounds – to see that legislation fall as well.

Speaking to The Independent Mr Farron said Liberal Democrat support for the change was not unconditional.

“The Conservatives need to remember that if they don’t keep their part of the bargain then, of course, boundary change should not happen,” he said.

“If Mr Cameron wants them (the changes) the whole set of constitutional reforms set out in the Coalition Agreement need to be implemented.

“You can’t have a situation where you enact the parts that you like and ignore the rest.”

While the Liberal Democrat leadership insisted there was no quid-pro-quo between the two issues they may not be unhappy be the stance of their backbenches.

Ed Milliband yesterday added to the Coalition’s problems when he said Labour would support proposal for any reform to be put to a national referendum.

Speaking while on a local government election campaign in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, today, he said: “A referendum on the issue is a good idea. I don't quite understand why the Government is setting its face against giving the people a say.”

Both Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg are opposed to the idea of a referendum which they fear could push back the proposals until after the next election. They argue that House of Lords reform was in all three main party’s election manifestos so they have a clear mandate for change.

Downing Street said David Cameron remained committed to reform of the House of Lords.

”Both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are committed to Lords reform,“ a No 10 spokeswoman said.

She added that all members of the Government would be expected to support the legislation when it comes to Parliament.

”If it is Government policy, one expects the Government to support it,“ she said.

She said ministers were ”not persuaded“ by calls for a referendum on the issue.

But the Conservative MP Peter Bone said House of Lords reform was “a huge problem” for the Prime Minister.

“It certainly could bring the coalition down, though whether it will I don't know,” he said.

“The one thing the Liberal Democrats are demanding is Lords reform because Nick Clegg has failed on everything else, and if he gets this then he will go down in history as the Liberal leader who achieved something they've been trying to do for 100 years.

“Presumably there will be some sort of sweeteners, and the Prime Minister will say we will reach some sort of compromise.”

A Coalition divided

“What Conservative MPs are angry about is that Nick Clegg’s Bill [will] create in effect a new House of Commons to be elected by proportional representation. Less than a year ago, the British people rejected PR in a referendum.”

Eleanor Laing, Tory MP for Epping Forest

“Conservatives also told the voters at the last election that they would ‘work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber... The public should be able to choose the people who make the laws we all have to obey.”

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem deputy leader

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
i100
Life and Style
gaming
Arts and Entertainment
Carl Barat and Pete Dohrety in an image from the forthcoming Libertines short film
filmsPete Doherty and Carl Barat are busy working on songs for a third album
Arts and Entertainment
films
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

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Engineer - Smart Home / IoT Devices

£32500 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Electronic Engineer is requi...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Solicitor - Leicester

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: LEICESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL SOLICITOR- An o...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 1st Line

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support organisation focuses on ...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst (Windows, Active Directory) - London £26k

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Support Analyst / IT Support Analys...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible