Lords debate heats up
Nick Clegg has urged MPs to back the Government's plans for reform of the House of Lords following reports that 100 rebel Conservatives have signed a letter opposing the proposals.
The Deputy Prime Minister was heckled by Tory MPs today as he insisted that change was needed to fix a "flawed institution".
The plans are coming under scrutiny in the House of Commons, ahead of tomorrow's key vote on the timetabling of the bill.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Clegg said: "Nobody doubts the commitment and public service of many members of the House of Lords. But dedicated individuals cannot compensate for flawed institutions. And this bill is about fixing a flawed institution."
But a number of Tory MPs spoke out against the reforms in the Commons today, including Eleanor Laing.
She said: "We face the possibility that we might not be able to fully examine the bill here in the House of Commons because of a narrow timetable motion. And at the same time the Government is afraid of a referendum, afraid to ask the people.
"No constitutional convention, no referendum, no proper scrutiny in here. That... is not democracy"
Graham Brady also urged MPs to oppose the "appalling bill", which he said would lead to a "bizarre and opaque arrangement" for the second chamber.
Labour is backing a second reading of the bill, but will join up to 110 Tory backbenchers in opposing the programme motion limiting the amount of Commons time allocated to the bill.
In their letter, Tory backbenchers including Ms Laing, Christopher Chope, Zac Goldsmith, Penny Mordaunt, Peter Lilley, Jesse Norman and Priti Patel suggested they were preparing to vote against a motion to cut the Commons debate on the legislation to 10 days.
Asked today whether any members of the Government failing to support the plans in the Commons would lose their jobs, the Prime Minister Official Spokesman said: "Let's wait and see what happens."
Among those Tory MPs oppositing the plans are Nicholas Soames, who has rebelled against the party only once before in his 29 years as an MP. Mr Soames has said that he is "appalled at the constitutional catastrophe" of the reforms.
Meanwhile Penny Mordaunt told Radio 4 the bill is a "dog's breakfast".
But Vince Cable hit back at criticism of the reforms, telling Sky News: "We’ve all agreed it’s got to be a predominantly elected chamber. There is genuine argument around detail, and it’s important that those details are got right, but there is absolutely no reason to argue that this causes fundamental problems for the Coalition. Indeed, all three parties should be working together on this.”
This morning the BBC's Norman Smith reported that would-be Conservative rebels who opposed the plan were being told to vote against the second reading of the Bill rather than the the programme motion.
Former speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Boothroyd today told Today on Radio 4 she wished the rebels "good luck", calling Coalition moves "blackmail".