Sir Keir Starmer said many of those sitting in the upper chamber were there ‘simply by being friends’ of Conservative Party, but didn’t mention the fact that Labour and the Liberal Democrats did exactly the same thing
By Bill Heaney
Labour would aim to abolish the “indefensible” House of Lords “as quickly as possible”, ideally within its first term, the party’s Westminster leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.
But the party’s leader did not commit to a time frame for the move, stressing discussions are pending on when “exactly” it would come to pass.
The proposal forms part of Labour’s blueprint for a “New Britain”, outlined in the report of its commission on the UK’s future – headed by ex-premier Gordon Brown, much to the great chagrin of many local people who feel he should have retired long ago.
One Democrat reader, retired librarian Arthur Jones, right, posted this comment on social media: “He is entitled to his opinions of course, but dearie me, why doesn’t Gordon Brown just retire properly as normal people do? This allegedly commissioned report for the Labour Party is just his latest bout of superannuated obiter dicta.
Sir Keir will promote the proposals for political and economic devolution as “the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people” at a joint press conference in Leeds on Monday.
He had hinted that some of the measures – including a new democratic assembly of nations and regions to replace the Lords – may have to wait for a second term Labour government.
But quizzed repeatedly on when his party would enact the proposal to abolish the upper chamber during a broadcast round on Monday, he said he hoped to deliver the change within the first five years of governing.
Lord McFall, the Duke of Montrose and Lord MacKenzie.
That would mean that Dumbarton’s retired MP John McFall, who is the Lords Speaker, could remain in post until he is well into his eighties.
The other two local people already with a place on the red benches include the Duke of Montrose, a hereditary peer and Loch Lomondside landowner, who lives in Drymen, and Lord MacKenzie, a retired trade union official, who is resident in Oxhill, Dumbarton..
Pressed on whether he hoped to abolish the Lords in Labour’s first term, Sir Keith told Sky News: “Yes, I do.
“Because when I asked Gordon Brown to set up the commission and do this, I said what I want is recommendations that are capable of being implemented in the first term.”
Brown has insisted the current upper chamber is “indefensible” and has to go.
He warned in a briefing for Scottish journalists ahead of the report’s launch that the issue could “come to a head” when Boris Johnson, pictured left, publishes his resignation honours list, which is expected to include a number of new peers.
The former Labour leader said there was a feeling many in the Lords were there “simply because they have been friends with the Conservative Party and not because of their contribution to public policy”.
Among the report’s 40 recommendations is a call to give local communities new powers over skills, transport, planning and culture to drive growth.
There would be an explicit requirement to re-balance the economy to spread prosperity and investment more equally across the UK, and the right to healthcare based on need rather than ability to pay would be enshrined in a set of protected social rights.
Towns, cities and other areas would also be brought together as part of a co-ordinated economic strategy, with some 50,000 civil service jobs transferred out of London.
Meanwhile, the report advocates extra powers for Scotland and Wales, with restored and strengthened devolution in Northern Ireland.
The report also proposes a series of measures to clean up politics including a new anti-corruption agency, an integrity and ethics commission to replace the various existing “ad hoc bodies” and a ban on most second jobs for MPs.
Backing the plan, Sir Keir told the launch event: “The centre hasn’t delivered. We have an unbalanced economy which makes too little use of the talents of too few people in too few places.
“We will have higher standards in public life, a wider spread of power and opportunity, and better economic growth that benefits everyone, wherever they are.
He will say the report reflects the demand from people across the country for a “new approach”.
“During the Brexit referendum I argued for Remain, but I couldn’t disagree with the basic case that many Leave voters made to me,” he will say.
“They wanted democratic control over their lives so they could provide opportunities for the next generation, build communities they felt proud of, and public services they could rely on.
“And I know that in the Scottish referendum in 2014, many of those who voted ‘Yes’ did so for similar reasons, the same frustration at a Westminster system that seems remote.”