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Lords Reform: Clegg Insists He'll Press Ahead
Nick Clegg has vowed to press ahead with reforming the House of Lords despite it prompting a bitter split between Tory and Lib Dem MPs and a humiliating Government climbdown.
The Deputy Prime Minister made clear that he expects David Cameron to deliver on the policy, which has now been delayed following a major rebellion by 91 Tory MPs.
Hours after a Commons vote left the coalition damaged and despite rebel Tories declaring the plans a "dead duck", Mr Clegg insisted there was no going back on moves to create an 80% elected upper chamber.
Speaking outside his London home, he said: "We were never going to do this in one leap. It was always going to happen in stages.
"You have got to be determined, you have got to be patient so that it eventually happens. I think a House of Lords fit for the 21st century quite obviously needs democracy right at its heart."
He added: "A coalition is like a contract that any two people sign in everyday life. You sign a piece of paper, like a contract, saying these are the things we are going to, these are the obligations we make to each other.
"A deal's a deal... It is important that we deliver House of Lords reform because it is a clear commitment in the coalition agreement."
The comments set the stage for a lengthy coalition battle and comes after senior Lib Dems warned there would be "consequences" if Mr Cameron did not find a way to win round his backbenchers.
It has already been suggested that the Lib Dems could block boundary changes in retaliation, a move that could cost the Tories up to 20 seats at the next general election.
With Labour backing the coalition's reforms, MPs voted by 462 votes to 124 in favour of a second reading of the Bill on Tuesday night, giving a massive majority of 338.
But amid a mood of bitterness and recrimination on the coalition benches, 91 Tory MPs defied David Cameron and voted against the reforms in the biggest rebellion of this Parliament.
The Prime Minister reportedly angrily confronted one of the rebel ringleaders, Jesse Norman, following the vote and accused him of not behaving honorably.
And there was a separate incident in which Mr Norman was approached by Tory whips as he drank in a Commons bar and told he should leave the building.
Two junior Government ministers, Angie Bray and Conor Burns, who had been warned they would be sacked if they carried out their threat to rebel, were among those to go against the Government.
Ms Bray was sacked immediately after the vote from her job as parliamentary private secretary to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and Mr Burns earlier resigned as aide to Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson.
"I knew this was the consequence," Ms Bray said. "I am very sorry that I found myself in this position because I have very much enjoyed working for Francis Maude."
Senior Tory MPs rebelling were led by Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell and included 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady, former Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst, David Davis, Bernard Jenkin and John Whittingdale.
And they included former ministers Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Peter Lilley, John Redwood, Christopher Chope, Edward Leigh and Sir Winston Churchill's grandson Nicholas Soames.
But there was also a large number of the 2010 Tory intake among the rebels, including Tracey Crouch, Nick de Bois, Caroline Dineage, George Eustice, Philip Lee, Louise Mensch, Penny Mordaunt, Bob Stewart, Rory Stewart and Robin Walker.
Some 26 Labour rebels voting against a second reading, including veteran ex-ministers Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Sir Gerald Kaufman and Geoffrey Robinson.
The vote came hours after Commons Leader Sir George Young announced a dramatic Government climbdown by withdrawing a timetable motion on which the coalition had been facing near-certain defeat by Labour and Conservative rebels.
The motion had proposed limiting debate on the Bill to 10 days but was opposed by many Tories as well as the Labour Party, who wanted more time for scrutiny.
Sir George told MPs: "We remain committed to making progress on Lords reform and with second reading behind us we will then consider how best to take this agenda forward and how best to secure progress through the House for reforms that have the backing of this House."
He said he would put forward a new timetable motion - regarded as vital for the Bill to make progress through the Commons and prevent time wasting and delaying tactics by opponents - in the autumn.
But rebels insist they will threaten to defeat the Government once again and so the Bill may still be blocked by opponents. Following the withdrawal, Mr Norman said: "The Bill is a dead duck."
During the second day of the Commons debate on the reforms, there were ugly clashes between Conservative rebels and Liberal Democrat MPs.
And when Mr Burns announced his resignation from the Government in his speech during the debate, he was cheered loudly by fellow rebels.
"I couldn't look myself in the eye if I voted for this Bill at second reading and clearly that is incompatible with membership of Her Majesty's Government," he told MPs.