House of Lords reform: Coalition divided over plans to remove hereditary peers

A LORDS reform Bill that is set to put further strain on the Coalition will be tabled today as a Tory rebellion looms large.

• Tory rebels seeking to delay the legislation

• Labour backs the move but wants national referendum

• Removal of hereditary peers driven by Lib Dems

Labour wants more days allotted to debating the legislation, which would introduce an 80 per cent elected Upper House and slim membership down from 800 to 450, and confirmed it will join with Conservative rebels to vote down a motion setting out its passage through parliament.

The Government wants to make the Bill law by the spring but a defeat on the timetable would pave the way for as much as four or five weeks of debate in the autumn, which would swallow up time needed by for other business.

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Conservative opponents of reform - of whom there are thought to be as many as 100 in the Commons - would also seek to use the opportunity to “talk out” the legislation.

Labour leader Ed Miliband announced his party will back the reforms in the Commons but is expected to table an amendment demanding that any change is subject to a national referendum - something which the Government has firmly ruled out.

The Bill, approved by Cabinet with “strong support” from ministers yesterday, is being driven by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and forms the remaining centrepiece of Liberal Democrat constitutional reform plans, following defeat in last year’s referendum on voting reform.

It would finally complete the removal of hereditary peers from the Second Chamber and introduce the first elected members in tranches of 120 at each of the next three general elections, with the process of change completed by 2025. Elected members would serve for a single 15-year term.

After publication, the Bill will have its second reading in the Commons, followed by a vote on the timetable motion before Parliament rises for its summer break on July 17.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said that Conservative MPs would be whipped “appropriately” to follow the party line and support the legislation.