Page last updated at 21:17 GMT, Tuesday, 10 July 2012 22:17 UK

Ministers abandon planned timetable for Lords reform

The government has decided to withdraw its proposed timetable for Commons debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill, Leader of the House Sir George Young has announced.

Sir George denied that the move was prompted by a backlash from Conservative MPs hostile to the proposals.

As the Commons resumed debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill at second reading on 10 July 2012, Sir George said ministers would put forward a new timetable for the legislation in the autumn.

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers had announced their intention to join Labour MPs in voting against the government's programme motion, which would have restricted line-by-line, committee-stage scrutiny of the bill to ten days.

Sir George told the Commons: "We have listened carefully to the debate so far, confident that we will get a significant majority at second reading tonight.

"But for Lords reform to progress, it needs those that support reform to vote for reform, and to vote for that reform to make progress through this House.

"It is clear that the opposition are not prepared to do that, so we will not move the programme motion tonight."

Sir George did not assent to Tory MP Jesse Norman's response that "the very substantial opposition from within the Conservative party, not just that from Labour, was responsible for the withdrawal of the motion".

Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle said the decision represented a "victory for Parliament".

She repeated accusations that the government had set aside an inadequate amount of time for scrutiny of the bill.

The legislation was "unchartered territory", she said, predicting that the introduction of elected peers would transfer power from MPs to the Lords.

"It doesn't mean that we should run away from reform but we cannot simply cross our fingers and hope that these issues will some how be miraculously resolved."

The government wants to make the Lords a mostly elected chamber of Parliament, with the number of members cut to about 465 and the first elections taking place by proportional representation in 2015.

Under the bill:

• Peers would serve 15-year, non-renewable terms

• Elections would take place every five years, with one third of seats up for re-election

• Members would represent different regions

• Elections would take place in 2015, 2020 and 2025, with existing members being "phased out"

• 90 unelected members (about 20%) would be chosen by an Appointments Commission, on a non-party basis

• The number of Church of England bishops in the Lords would be cut from 26 to 12

• It would still be called the House of Lords, but members would not have the title "Lord", with parliament to decide on a new name for them.

Read latest news and analysis from BBC News on Lords reform here.


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