Rebellion signalled over Bill to reform Lords

Around 70 Conservative MPs have backed a letter warning that House of Lords reforms threaten to “pile a constitutional crisis on top of an economic crisis”.

They have called for the Bill to be given the “full and unrestricted” scrutiny it deserves rather than the 10 days being offered by the Government.

Senior Tories, including Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee chairman John Whittingdale and loyalist Nicholas Soames, are among those who have signed the letter.

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If all of the signatories oppose tonight’s crunch vote on the timetable for the Bill, which restricts detailed debate to 10 days, it is set to lead to the Government’s first significant defeat.

The letter, organised by Jesse Norman and Eleanor Laing, states: “We come from all sides of the Conservative Party and are writing as reformers to express our serious concern at the current proposals to create an elected House of Lords.

“The Lords Bill is a measure of profound constitutional significance.

“Over time it will change the institutions by which we as a nation are governed.

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“It threatens to pile a constitutional crisis on top of an economic crisis.”

It goes on to warn that the changes would undermine the primacy of the Commons and lead to “legislative gridlock”.

The new chamber would be “less expert” and significantly more expensive than the current set-up, it says.

“We hope you will support us in giving this Bill the full and unrestricted scrutiny it deserves.”

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David Cameron’s official spokesman declined to say whether the Prime Minister had spent the weekend trying to persuade rebellious backbenchers to back the Government motion.

But the spokesman told a daily media briefing at Westminster: “No one should be in any doubt about his position on Lords reform. He is committed to these reforms.

“I am sure that he is speaking to colleagues and he will reiterate his position when he does so.”