The government has dodged an expected embarrassing defeat in the House of Commons by abandoning a Tuesday evening vote on Lords Reform which was due to attract a major backbench Tory rebellion.
Leader of the House of Commons Sir George Young has confirmed the government has ditched the "programme motion" which would have set the number of days MPs would spend discussing Nick Clegg's plan to introduce a largely-elected House of Lords.
The U-turn means the Bill on Lords reform is now in limbo until at least September, and the onus is on David Cameron to try to win rebel Tories around over the summer.
Sir George Young told MPs on Tuesday afternoon: "We have listened carefully to the debate so far, confident that we will get a significant majority at second reading tonight.
"But for Lords reform to progress it needs those that support reform to vote for reform and to vote for that reform to make progress through this House.
"It is clear that the Opposition are not prepared to do that, so we will not move the programme motion tonight."
Up to 100 Tory MPs were expected to join the Labour Party in voting against the motion, which would have seen it defeated.
Tory rebels are expected to vote against the second reading later on Tuesday, but the government is expected to win that vote as Labour has pledged to support to coalition.
However it does not mean that Nick Clegg's reforms are no longer at risk of being talked out of parliament.
The only practical implication of the U-turn is that the government no longer has to face the embarrasment of a major Tory rebellion in the Commons.
A government spokesman said David Cameron wanted to withdraw the programme motion so he had more time to talk to colleagues and that Clegg was "happy" with the decision if it meant getting the Bill on the statue book.
However sources close to the deputy prime minister laid the blame for the abandoning of the timetable at the feet of both the Labour Party and Tory rebels. "It is a plague on both their houses," they said.
And the source insisted that the Lib Dems had not been hurt by the row. "I don't actually think we've sustained any damage," they said.
A leading Conservative opponent of the Government's reform proposals, Hereford MP Jesse Norman, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "The Bill is a dead duck.
"The question is how long will the government go on before it recognises that and how much further will it have to go in putting the country through a lot of additional pain when the real energies of parliament and the government should be focused on fixing the howling economic gale that we are now in."
The Bill will now proceed to a committee of the whole House, where it is likely to still face filibustering from Tories who oppose in principle the vision for an elected House of Lords.
The decision means Labour can no longer use a vote against a programme motion to inconvenience the government, but it still means a vast amount of House of Commons time will be spent discussing Lords reform in the autumn.
There is speculation that the government will now attempt to do a deal with Labour to try to agree on a number of days the Bill will be discussed.
Labour will come under pressure to agree a reasonable number of days, more than the 10 originally offered by the government.
Labour maintain that Nick Clegg's bill is flawed, and could still vote against parts or all of the Bill at a later stage, giving Tory rebels another chance to scupper the reforms.
It is unclear whether the changes will mean junior members of the government can keep their jobs - two Parliamentary Private Secretaries, Conor Burns and Angie Bray, have said they will vote against the Lords Reform Bill at second reading.
Both have confirmed on Tuesday evening they will still be voting against the Bill at second reading, Downing Street has indicated that they would be sacked if they carried out their threat.
On Tuesday morning Bray told The Huffington Post that she would vote against the Bill as she did not believe it in "any way advances the interest of parliament or the country".
"I think for most people this is a rather arcane constitutional issue given the awful time we're all going through," she said.
"I would hope that common sense would still prevail and we can step back from wasting time on this and focus on the more important issues," she added.
Meanwhile, almost three in five voters (59%) support reform of the House of Lords to ensure a majority of its members are elected by the public, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
But less than a quarter (24%) of those questioned by pollsters ComRes for ITV News at Ten said reform should be a priority for the government at the present time, compared to 50% who said it should not.
Just 18% of those questioned for the poll opposed a majority-elected House of Lords, while 23% said they were not sure.
But many more thought that the changes should go further than proposed.
Asked whether the government should insist on democratic election for all members of the Upper House, rather than saving 20% of seats for appointees as ministers plan, some 53% agreed, against 20% who disagreed and 26% who did not know.
The poll suggested that public opinion is divided over whether coalition proposals to reduce from 650 to 600 the number of MPs in the House of Commons is more important than reforming the House of Lords - 39% agreed that it is, while 28% disagreed.
Some 30% of those questioned said they have more respect for the current members of the House of Lords than they do for MPs, while 29% said they do not.
ComRes interviewed 2,054 adults online between 6 June and 8 July.