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May faces new parliament battle with committee vote

LONDON (Reuters) – British lawmakers will vote on Tuesday on moves by the Conservative government to bolster its numbers on committees that scrutinise laws, denounced by the opposition as an attempt to “rig parliament”.

Prime Minister Theresa May faces another potentially tight vote in parliament, a day after members of parliament passed legislation to sever ties with the European Union.

If successful, the committee reforms could help ministers reduce opposition to the government’s plans for Britain to leave the EU.

In a taste of what will become a regular experience for May’s government after the Conservatives lost their majority in a June election, ministers will largely have to rely on the support of a small Northern Irish party and loyalty within their own ranks in a vote that could run long into the night.

The leader of the lower house of parliament, Andrea Leadsom, has proposed a motion which says that the rules will be changed “in such a way that where a committee has an odd number of members the government shall have a majority”.

“Where a committee has an even number of members the number of government and opposition members shall be equal; but this instruction shall not apply to the nomination of any public bill committee.”

Public bill committees take evidence from organisations or individuals before examining legislation line-by-line and introducing any amendments – a process that can influence or change the government’s approach.

The government says the move reflects its majority on “the floor of the house”, but the main opposition Labour Party says May is trying to undermine democracy after she lost her party’s dominant position in parliament at the June election.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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