By Matthew Barrett
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Michael Fallon – the "Deputy Chairman" of the Conservative Party, and its most trusted attack dog – appeared on the Murnaghan show on Sky News earlier today, to push back against rumours of Tory rebellions and resignations over Lords reform (which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday), and to re-state Number 10's view.
Mr Fallon first reminded potential rebels of the fact Lords reform was mentioned in the Conservative – and Labour and Lib Dem – manifesto:
"We all committed in our manifestos, when we stood at the last election to work to build a consensus for this and we’ve been doing that over the last year or so, there’s been a draft bill put before MPs and peers who have expressed their views… Obviously it’s not the priority of the Government… but we are committed in our Coalition Agreement, with the Liberal Democrats, to see if there is a consensus for reform."
Mr Fallon then set out the "huge safeguards" in the Lords reform Bill set to appear next week, which are designed to satisy, he said, "most of my colleagues in the Commons":
"MPs were concerned that this would somehow weaken the Commons. We make it clear in the bill that whatever shape the new Lords has this is not going to weaken the powers of the Commons. Secondly, there were a lot of MPs concerned that the new peers would be alternatives, they won’t be, they won’t be able to usurp the role that MPs have in their constituencies. So those are two key safeguards which actually come out from some of the work that’s been done on the drafting."
Mr Fallon then placed great emphasis on the "Coalition" nature of the Bill…
"This is a Coalition policy, it will be a Coalition bill, it’s going to the Coalition Cabinet this week, so it’s a Coalition piece of legislation that has the full force of the Coalition behind it."
…before finally reiterating Number 10's argument that a referendum on Lords reform is not necessary:
"The Commons will still be the main chamber. On the referendum… it’s essential if you’re taking powers away from the Commons or you’re changing the franchise of the Commons, it’s quite reasonable to consult the electorate on that. All three parties were committed to a reformed House of Lords and I don’t think it’s fair to spend £100m on an issue where the electorate was already clear that they want reform. I think there’s a lot better things to spend £100m on."