Home   News   Article

POLITICS MATTERS: What will a new Labour government do with the House of Lords?

By David Stewart

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
House of Lords. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
House of Lords. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

What will a new Labour government do with the House of Lords?

If Sir Keir Starmer becomes our new Prime Minister this year, he will have no shortage of pressing problems queuing up in his burgeoning in-tray.

More from David Stewart

More politics news

More from our columnists

Things like: how to support Ukraine with armaments, training and strategic direction in the war with Russia; how to fight inflation and make energy affordable for those on fixed incomes; and how to solve our housing crisis across the UK – among many other issues.

Reforming the House of Lords might not seem the obvious and most pressing item on the new Prime Minister’s to-do list. However, as constitutional anoraks will never tire of telling us, Labour needs to get its programme for government through the Lords – and it will not have a majority in the “other place”.

Firstly, there is the difficult problem of the hereditary peers. The last Labour government removed the bulk of hereditary peers’ rights to sit and vote in the Lords. However, there are still 91 – the bulk of whom are Conservative and crossbenchers.

One cunning plan that Labour could adopt is to ban by-elections of hereditary peers when there is a vacancy following the death of a Lord (this, of course, does not apply to Life Peers). Over time, this would reduce the number of hereditaries within the House of Lords.

The more radical option is to follow the recommendations of the Gordon Brown Commission and to replace the House of Lords with an Assembly of the Nations and Regions. The new Assembly would be a quarter of the size of the current Lords and would be directly elected.

What would the new Assembly do? It would have powers to scrutinise and amend Bills coming from the Commons. The Assembly would have a UK remit as the “constitutional champion”, reinforced by the legitimacy of its directly elected status. However, as radical as this sounds, we have been here before with Lords reform.

In 2002, Robin Cook, leader of the Commons, put five proposals before MPs but each was voted down.

In 2012, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, presented a Bill that proposed a hybrid Lords of elected and appointed members. The Bill failed to even go through the Commons.

So where do we go from here?

It is a case of the victory of hope over experience? The history of Lords reform has seen large-scale reform defeated whilst passing small-scale changes, such as it is now possible to expel a Lord who had brought the parliament into disrepute. Surely the time has come to decentralise our system of government and give an elected voice to all parts of the UK within the Lords?

Inverness Musical Theatre deserved its standing ovation

I was a cultural addict last week as I managed three evenings at Eden Court theatre! The highlight was the performance by Inverness Musical Theatre of Made in Dagenham.

It was a first-class evening by the company that dramatised the 1968 sewing machinists strike at the Ford factory in Dagenham, Essex.

I was particularly impressed by Margo Fraser, who played Barbara Castle, but the whole cast really deserved their standing ovation – truly a night to remember!

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More