culture secretary Nadine Dorries, seen arriving at Downing Street in July 2022,
is among those reportedly in line for a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation
honours list. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP
This article is more than 9 months old
Keir Starmer: I will abolish House of Lords to
‘restore trust in politics’
Exclusive: Labour leader plans a new elected chamber
after accusing successive Tory governments of handing peerages to ‘lackeys and
Savage Policy editor
Sat 19 Nov
2022 14.30 EST
Starmer will abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a new elected
chamber as part of plans to “restore trust in politics”, the Observer
sweeping constitutional overhaul, the Labour leader has told the party’s peers
that he wants to strip politicians of the power to make appointments to the
Lords as part of the first-term programme of a Labour government. Starmer said
that the public’s faith in the political system had been undermined by
successive Tory leaders handing peerages to “lackeys and donors”.
understood that Labour will hold a consultation on the composition and size of
a new chamber as well as immediate reforms to the current appointments process.
Final proposals will be included in the party’s next election manifesto.
after a series of rows over peerages. Boris Johnson made a number of
controversial appointments, including his friend Evgeny Lebedev, who owns the
Evening Standard. He is expected to appoint political allies and junior aides
as part of a forthcoming list.
Liz Truss is also said to be planning a resignation list of new peers despite a
disastrous leadership that lasted just seven weeks.
meeting last week, Starmer told Labour peers that there was now strong support
for reform of the Lords, both across party lines and among the public. He
outlined “some very clear principles” for reform, including that any new
chamber should be elected by voters rather than appointed by politicians.
“I want to
be clear that we do need to restore the trust of the public in every part of
the United Kingdom in our system of government,” he said. “House of Lords
reform is just one part of that … People have lost faith in the ability of
politicians and politics to bring about change – that is why, as well as fixing
our economy, we need to fix our politics.”
that it should be “truly representative” of the UK’s nations and regions,
meaning it should have a clear role in safeguarding devolution. However, he
also said that his proposals would ensure it should not replace any of the
functions of the House of Commons, remaining a second chamber charged with
amending and scrutinising legislation. The Commons would retain exclusive
powers over the public finances and the formation of governments.
proposals will also set out much stronger devolved powers, as part of a review
of Britain’s constitutional arrangements overseen by Gordon Brown, the former
told party peers on Wednesday that he regarded reforming the Lords as a
critical part of his agenda aimed at “promoting inclusive growth and restoring
trust in politics”. While he said that they would continue to play a “vital
role” in the campaign to win the next election, reform was needed to show the
public that Labour would provide a fresh start after a series of Tory scandals.
to Johnson’s recent use of his power to appoint peers as showing the need for
reform. He said Johnson’s plans to reward “lackeys and donors” made him the
latest in a long line of Tory prime ministers who have played party politics
with the Lords and ridden roughshod over the appointments system: “We should be
rebuilding trust in politics, but this can’t just be an article of faith – we
need to show how we will do things differently. Reforming our second chamber
has to be a part of that.”
recently handed a peerage to Michael Hintze, a leading Tory donor, and
previously awarded one to Lebedev. He is now said to be planning to hand more
to the ultra-loyal MPs Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, and Nigel
Adams, a former Cabinet Office minister and longtime supporter.
resignation honours list, which has not yet been announced, is also said to
include his advisers Ross Kempsell, 30, and Charlotte Owen, a former assistant
to Johnson believed to be in her late 20s.
pledged to abolish the Lords as part of his leadership campaign, and to
“replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations”. Doubts were later
raised about his commitment to the promise after he abandoned other elements of
his leadership pitch. However, it is understood he now sees reform of the Lords
as necessary to demonstrate that Labour would represent a decisive change from
comments suggest that he is backing many of the ideas drawn up by Brown’s
review. It is understood to support replacing the Lords with an upper house of
nations and regions. It is also said to have backed a new round of devolution,
including handing new economic and taxation powers to new independent councils
of the nations and for England. Brown wants local mayors to have more power
over education, transport and research funding.
meeting with peers, Starmer also made clear that he wanted to reposition Labour
as “pro-business, pro-growth and can offer Britain a bright future”, adding:
“We will be out there showing the public that there is a different way to this
failed Tory economics … Britain has so much potential. Labour will harness it
so we can lead the world again.
already announced that Starmer backs banning MPs from carrying out paid
consultancy work as a way of improving ethical standards. He would also replace
the ministerial code with an updated code of conduct. The party’s plans appear
to include an entirely elected second chamber, but the details of the reforms
have not yet been agreed.
big attempt to reform the Lords came under the coalition government led by
David Cameron. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime
minister, eventually had to abandon the plans in the wake of a humiliating Tory
rebellion. His proposals would have seen 80% of peers elected and the total
number of members cut to 450.