Britain’s coalition strained by House of Lords reform


British Prime Minister David Cameron faced fierce opposition from within his own party as lawmakers on Monday debated a controversial draft law to reform the upper house of parliament.
MPs will vote late Tuesday on the House of Lords Reform Bill, which would create a smaller and mainly elected upper house and complete the process of abolishing the right of hereditary peers to sit in the assembly.
The draft legislation to overhaul the Lords — an institution dating back to the 14th century — has caused deep divisions within the Conservative-led coalition, in which the Liberal Democrats are junior partners. Around 70 rebel lawmakers from Cameron’s centre-right Conservative party signed a letter ahead of the two-day debate on the plans, warning that the bill would “pile a constitutional crisis on top of an economic crisis”. They also want the reforms, which are heavily backed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems, to be given unlimited parliamentary time for scrutiny, rather than the 10 days offered by the government.
A spokesman for Cameron would not confirm reports that the prime minister had spent the weekend trying to persuade backbenchers to get behind the changes, but said he would discuss the issue with his lawmakers. “No one should be in any doubt about his position on Lords reform. He is committed to these reforms,” the spokesman said. “He and Cabinet colleagues have been making the case over the past couple of weeks. I am sure that he is speaking to colleagues and he will reiterate his position when he does so.” Under the proposed reforms 80 percent of the upper chamber would be elected, while its more than 800-strong membership would be reduced to 450.