London, Jan 18 (PTI) British peers today created asort of record, sitting continuously for a marathon almost 24hours as the ruling Tory-LibDem tried to push through anElectoral Reform Bill to cut the number of Members ofParliament.
Westminster witnessed an unprecedented tussle as theHouse of Lords was ordered to work round-the-clock to resolvethe fate of the Parliamentary Voting System and ConstituenciesBill, which must become law by February 16, if the proposedreferendum on adopting the alternative vote is to take placeon May 5.
The tussle was -- the Tory-Liberal peers wanted thebill to be adopted, while the opposition Labour indulged infilibuster aimed at blocking the government plans to cut thenumber of legislators.
The opposition was pressing that the government shouldditch the plans to cut from 650 to 600 the number of House ofCommon members.
Till last reports even at lunch time, the peers wereat it after starting the debate yesterday 3:28 pm local time.
The ageing peers sat through the night, sneaking offfor short snoozes in the historic House of Westminster itself.
"The experience is a real test of stamina," said72-year-old peer David Steel. He said in his thirteen years inthe House of Lords, he had never known an all night sitting.
Beds had been laid out and dormitories marked fordifferent sexes and political parties as the House of Eldersdebated the issue.
Free tea and biscuits were served all night-long, butthe Lord''s bar downed the shutters at its scheduled closing2230 hrs GMT. Though, soup and chocolates were at hand fromthe nearby Bishops sandwich bar.
This was the setting for the first trial of strengthof the coalition era between the government and Labour in theHouse of Lords.
As the House hotly debated the issue, older peerssneaked off to take short snoozes in five rooms set aside, sopeers could rest their heads between votes.
With the Leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclydeaccusing the opposition Labour party of slowing down theproceedings, the Monday night''s sitting was the longest inliving memory and continued well into Tuesday.
"There were lot of very older members and I don''t knowhow they survived," Steel told BBC radio, adding, he found ita struggle.
While all night debates are a regular feature in theHouse of Commons, it is a rarity in the House of Lords.
The Lords Deputy Speakers have organised a rota till 1pm, making the sitting one of the longest in living memory.
After the House of Lords goes through the bill, theCommons will start its marathon.