By Jonathan Isaby
A small number of Labour peers having been increasingly testing their Lordships' patience with their filibustering, with the aim of stopping the Bill from reaching the Statute Book by mid-February, which would have the effect of delaying the AV referendum scheduled for May 5th.
But the impasse now appears to be over.
Lord Strathclyde told the Lords yesterday afternoon:
"I am delighted to be able to inform the Committee that there is now agreement among the usual channels on a timetable for completing Committee. As a result of a series of productive discussions, the usual channels agree that Committee should be completed by the end of business on Wednesday this week. This is within the time that has already been scheduled and indicated on the Order Paper. I am sure that all noble Lords who have followed proceedings on the Bill, and perhaps a few who have not, will welcome a return to the effective functioning of the usual channels on the Bill, and I sincerely hope that this means that there is no longer any need for me to ask the Committee collectively to come to a resolution on how proceedings on the Bill should be regulated.
"During Committee so far, the Government have held meaningful discussions with the Opposition and with a number of other Members of the House, in addition to debate on the Bill in the Chamber. As a result, the Government will bring forward a package of concessions on Report, and I am sure that the whole House will welcome that. Therefore, we are in the welcome position of having agreement to complete Committee by the end of Wednesday this week. Equally, I am sure I have no need to remind the Committee that we need to return this Bill to the other place by the end of Monday, 14 February – that is, two weeks today – if the referendum is to be held on 5 May. From the soundings that I have taken, I feel confident that the majority of Members from all parts of the Chamber share this aim."
Today's Independent suggests that a "package of concessions" has been agreed to both break that deadlock and prevent the need for a guillotine of some kind – something which would be anathema in the Upper House:
"Among the proposals thought to be on offer is the suggestion that public inquiries take place where boundary changes are contentious. There is also likely to be some sort of post-legislation scrutiny of the reduction to 600 seats and a greater variation of seat sizes – a key demand of Labour."