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British peers have marathon 24 hours sitting

London: British peers on Tuesday created a sort of record, sitting continuously for a marathon almost 24 hours as the ruling Tory-LibDem tried to push through an Electoral Reform Bill to cut the number of Members of Parliament.

Westminster witnessed an unprecedented tussle as the House of Lords was ordered to work round-the-clock to resolve the fate of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which must become law by February 16, if the proposed referendum on adopting the alternative vote is to take place on May 5.

The tussle was — the Tory-Liberal peers wanted the bill to be adopted, while the opposition Labour indulged in filibuster aimed at blocking the government plans to cut the number of legislators.

The opposition was pressing that the government should ditch the plans to cut from 650 to 600 the number of House of Common members.

Till last reports even at lunch time, the peers were at it after starting the debate yesterday 3:28 pm local time.

The ageing peers sat through the night, sneaking off for short snoozes in the historic House of Westminster itself.

"The experience is a real test of stamina," said 72-year-old peer David Steel. He said in his thirteen years in the House of Lords, he had never known an all night sitting.

Beds had been laid out and dormitories marked for different sexes and political parties as the House of Elders debated the issue.

Free tea and biscuits were served all night-long, but the Lord`s bar downed the shutters at its scheduled closing 2230 hrs GMT. Though, soup and chocolates were at hand from the nearby Bishops sandwich bar.

This was the setting for the first trial of strength of the coalition era between the government and Labour in the House of Lords.

As the House hotly debated the issue, older peers sneaked off to take short snoozes in five rooms set aside, so peers could rest their heads between votes.

With the Leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde accusing the opposition Labour party of slowing down the proceedings, the Monday night`s sitting was the longest in living memory and continued well into Tuesday.

"There were lot of very older members and I don`t know how they survived," Steel told BBC radio, adding, he found it a struggle.

While all night debates are a regular feature in the House of Commons, it is a rarity in the House of Lords.

The Lords Deputy Speakers have organised a rota till 1 pm, making the sitting one of the longest in living memory.

After the House of Lords goes through the bill, the Commons will start its marathon.

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