The coalition has been cast into further disarray after David Cameron confronted Nick Clegg over constitutional reforms, and the Liberal Democrats hit out at Tory plans to slow the introduction of new wind farms in the UK.
In a sign of the deterioration in relations, the prime minister vented his fury at Clegg after the Lib Dem leader authorised his peers to support a Labour move to delay plans to reduce the size of the Commons until 2018.
Downing Street was understood to have moved to avoid a double parliamentary defeat on Wednesday – a Commons rebellion is due on Europe – by pulling its business in the House of Lords. This is designed to postpone Lib Dem support for a backbench Labour amendment to delay a review of Commons boundary changes until 2018.
The row over the changes to the size of the Commons came as the two coalition parties clashed over renewable energy policy. Lib Dems reacted furiously after John Hayes, the Tory energy minister, told the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail that wind turbines can no longer be imposed on communities.
Hayes told the Daily Telegraph: "We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can't single-handedly build a new Jerusalem, but I can protect our green and pleasant land.
"We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in. We need to understand communities' genuine desires. We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois left article of faith based on some academic perspective."
The Lib Dems regard Hayes, a rightwinger who delivered the Cornerstone Group of traditionalists to David Cameron in the 2005 Tory leadership contest, with suspicion. The prime minister was said to have instructed Hayes to put the brakes on onshore wind farms when he appointed him to the department of energy and climate change, which is led by the Lib Dem Ed Davey.
Hayes told the Daily Telegraph that only a small minority of wind turbines currently being assessed for planning permission will win approval. "Even if a minority of what's in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target," Hayes said. "I'm saying enough is enough."
One Lib Dem source said: "This government is committed to being the greenest government ever. We are committed to a mixed energy source, of which onshore wind will play a part. That is what the recent renewable obligation certificates sought to set out and that is what the government is sticking to."
The Lib Dems were being equally forthright over their plans to vote with Labour to delay plans to reduce the size of the Commons until 2018.
Clegg withdrew his support for plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, which would overcome disadvantages faced by the Tories in the electoral system, after Conservative MPs killed off Lords reform in the summer.
A Lib Dem source said: "The Labour amendment is in line with what the Lib Dems have been saying publicly. So it should come as no surprise that the Lib Dems should be supporting it."
The Labour amendment to the electoral registration and administration bill, tabled by Lord Hart, would amend the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 to delay the boundary reviews until 2018.
A source close to the Labour leadership in the Lords said: "With the threat of yet another defeat in the Lords, the government has clearly been panicked into pulling its business. As it's not clear that the leader of the house has the authority to do this, we will challenge the government's decision today."
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