Lords reform is widely seen as a hobbyhorse of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats –yet it is a Tory minister whose task is to push through the legislation to transform parliament’s upper house.
Indeed, aides to Mr Clegg have jokingly referred to it as “the Mark Harper bill” in their attempts to downplay the idea that the deputy prime minister is obsessedby removing the unelected peers.
Mr Harper has a delicate task in front of him; steering through a full shake-up of the Lords which has evaded other politicians for a century.
A press officer warns the FT that the minister keeps his office at a low temperature: but this habit may not prepare him for the frosty reception he will face in parliament during next year’s legislative marathon.
Peers and MPs of all parties have already lined up to oppose the bill. Even if it passes through the Commons without mishap it is likely to be ambushed by the combined forces of Tory, Labour, and even some Lib Dem peers.
There could be a repeat of the filibustering and all-night sittings dominated the Lords in the spring of 2011 over the alternative vote bill.
Nick Clegg has threatened to use the Parliament Act to force it through, but weeks of debate are expected, taking up large amounts of next year’s political calendar.
Mr Harper tells the FT that bill should not take up a “disproportionate” amount of time: but warns potential trouble-makers:
“I don’t think the public would understand if people told the public they don’t care hugely about this legislation but then let it (in-fighting) damage the rest of the programme,” he says.
Even David Cameron once said he saw Lords reform as a “third term issue”, implying it was a very low priority. But Mr Harper says the prime minister is fully signed up to the Read more