The Queen’s Speech commitment that ‘A Bill will be brought forward to reform the composition of the House of Lords’ is a lot vaguer than theLiberal Democrats were hoping for, or expected just a month or two ago. Crucially, there is no mention of the second chamber being elected. If this was not enough, the bill’s place in the speech — it was the 16th piece of legislation mentioned — sent out the signal that it is not a government priority. It appears that the Tory sceptics of Lords reform have won the opening battle.
This impression is bolstered by the fact that leading Tory opponents of Lords reform are content with the words in the Queen’s Speech. There is a general sense on the Tory benches that, as he does when push comes to shove — remember AV and the veto — Cameron has decided to side with his own party on this issue not his coalition partners. Indeed, Downing Street’s decision to give the honour of making the loyal address to Nadhim Zahawi, who presented the case against Lords reform to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, is being taken as an indication that the PM isn’t planning to push ahead with it.
The question now is what do the Liberal Democrats demand in return for the downgrading of Lords reform? They have made repeated efforts to link boundaries to Lords reform and so I expect we will see them pushing for the boundary changes to be dropped. But the Tory leadership will be reluctant to give up something that they regard as so key to their chances of winning a majority in 2015.