James Forsyth

The government will have to fight for Lords reform

The government will have to fight for Lords reform
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House of Lords reform is one of those subjects that make most people’s eyes glaze over. But it is going to dominate the next parliamentary session.

The Queen’s Speech will include a bill for elections in 2015 for 20 per cent of the seats in the Lords using a ‘Proportional Representation’ voting system. This bill will take an age to get through the Commons, where it has to start if the coalition is to use the Parliament Act to push it through, let alone the Lords.

One of the things that’ll be fascinating to watch is how large a Conservative rebellion there is on the issue. There are already Tory MPs mobilising to block the kind of Lords reform that Clegg wants. One told me recently that ‘No sensible Tory should want to have the Liberal Democrats permanently holding the balance of power in the Lords’.

Things will get really interesting if Labour, as some recent noises suggest, opposes the bill on the grounds it wants a 100 per cent elected second chamber. Then, it could take as little as 40 or so Tory MPs rebelling to stop the coalition’s bill even reaching the Lords.