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Lords deal ends AV debate deadlock

The threat of a voting reform referendum on May 5 being scuppered by political deadlock in the House of Lords has been eased after Tory and Labour peers struck a deal.

But critics warned the battle was not over and that further agreements would be required if the vital deadline for approving the legislation was not to be missed.

News of the compromise emerged amid reports David Cameron was willing to provoke a constitutional crisis by imposing a "guillotine" curtailing debate in the upper chamber.

It is believed to centre on changes put forward by the convenor of the crossbench peers, Baroness D'Souza.

The scheduled date for a public vote on switching to the Alternative Vote system was put in peril by protracted debate in the Lords, so far spanning more than 80 hours over 14 days.

Ministers have accused Labour of filibustering to delay the legislation, which must become law by February 16 for the referendum to be able to go ahead on the planned date.

Labour peers oppose measures contained in the same legislation to reduce the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs - which the party says are designed to disadvantage it.

Now Lords leader Lord Strathclyde has signalled a breakthrough, promising a "package of concessions" during a statement to peers.

They will bring the prolonged committee stage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill to an end on Wednesday.

But former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, who described the possibility of a guillotine as "an abomination", said the changes were not yet sufficient to ensure progress.

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