The government has just pulled the Programme Motion that was going to certain defeat and instead proposed (not tonight, but at a later date) an Allocation of Time motion, which decides the number of days of debate for a bill and, critically, is amendable. That means, some in government think, they’d be putting it up to Labour to invent their own timetable and thereby construct something they can’t vote down.

Labour, over the last few days, have shown no inclination to do anything of the sort. And for the avoidance of doubt has just announced it will not support a guillotine of any kind on the Lords Reform Bill.

Instead, it says it will propose Closure Motions whenever it’s felt the Commons has debated a clause for long enough – “like 2 days of 15 year terms, for instance?” a Labour aide was asked. “Yeah,” came the reply.

So what has changed after this last minute change of tactic?

The Second Reading will pass but the government won’t be defeated tonight. “It just delays the day,” one Tory rebel said. “They’re cowards.”

In the expectation of a programme motion, Labour’s managed to squeeze down its rebels and pull in its sick. It would have been looking at only three abstentions on the programme motion if it were called – Anne Coffey, Graham Allen and Paul Flynn. Malcolm Wicks, Jimmy Hood and Sian James are all here and ready to vote despite illness. The Nats were pledged to vote against the programme motion. All of which added to the decision to call this off and, the Coalition hopes, cool it off too. We shall see.

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