Starmer shies away from abolishing Lords until Labour wins second term

Backtracking Keir Starmer shies away from abolishing House of Lords until Labour wins a second term amid claims he will ‘water down’ ex-PM Gordon Brown’s plans

  • Keir Starmer shies away from scrapping Lords in Labour government’s first term
  • Labour leader is due to unveil constitutional proposals alongside Gordon Brown 
  • Sir Keir and the ex-PM have reportedly clashed over plans for upper chamber

A Labour shadow minister today insisted the party would abolish the House of Lords in the first five years of taking power – despite Sir Keir Starmer shying away from that commitment.

The Labour leader is tomorrow due to unveil proposals for economic and political reforms alongside former prime minister Gordon Brown.

The ex-premier has been working on a constitutional review for Sir Keir, which is expected to recommend giving more decision-making powers to towns, cities, English regions and devolved nations.

But Sir Keir and Mr Brown have reportedly clashed over a promise to replace the Lords with an elected chamber, with claims the pledge could be watered-down at the last moment.

Last month, Sir Keir was said to have told his party’s peers he wants to overhaul the Lords within the first term of a Labour government. 

Yet, the Labour leader has now suggested he might not be able to oversee Lords reform until he wins a second general election.

Sir Keir also made no mention of Labour’s plans for Parliament’s upper chamber in a newspaper article he wrote this weekend, ahead of the publication of Mr Brown’s review.

Despite suggestions Sir Keir was backtracking on his promise of reforming the Lords in the first term of a Labour government, one of his top frontbenchers today insisted the party remained ‘absolutely’ committed to an elected second chamber.

A Labour shadow minister today insisted the party would abolish the House of Lords in the first five years of taking power

Sir Keir Starmer is tomorrow due to unveil proposals for economic and political reforms alongside former prime minister Gordon Brown

But Sir Keir and Mr Brown have reportedly clashed over a promise to replace the Lords with an elected chamber

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson insisted her party still planned to reform the Lords within the first term of a Labour government

Asked on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme if Lords reform would take place within the first years of a Labour administration, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson replied: ‘That’s the plan.

‘We will be consulting ahead of the manifesto around how we make that happen.’

Sir Keir had avoided making the same committment in an interview with the Sunday Times.

The Labour leader admitted there were ‘questions of implementation’, telling the newspaper: ‘The answer is that this is the bit of the discussion that comes after Monday, because that’s testing the propositions, refining them, and then crucially answering, thinking when and how this is implemented.

‘What will require legislation, what won’t require legislation, whether we want to do each of the steps.

‘The purpose of that is to craft a manifesto that says this is the overall project, these are the bits we intend to do in the five years, this is the delivery you can expect to see.’

Mr Brown was commissioned by Sir Keir to carry out his constitutional review in 2020.

It has been claimed the Labour leader’s team have been unsure about wholly embracing some of the radicalism of the former PM’s plans.

In an article for the Observer, Sir Keir wrote that this week’s unveiling of Mr Brown’s proposals ‘will be the start of a journey that will see power pushed out of Westminster and standards driven up’.

He added: The start of showing how politics can once again be a force for good.

‘The start of Britain becoming a fairer, greener, more dynamic country. But more than that – it will be the start of ensuring the tools to build that better future are directly in people’s hands.’

But the Labour leader did not directly mention Lords reform in his article.

Tory peer Lord Norton insisted the Lords should remain unelected and warned against ‘Big Bang reform’ to Parliament’s upper chamber.

‘The problems with Gordon Brown’s proposals and to some extent with what Keir Starmer has been saying, on the one hand he was talking about getting rid of the Lord’s while maintaining to continue its current functions, as if you can separate discrete entities – the way a body is chosen and the job that it does – and the two are clearly linked,’ he told Times Radio.

‘So the present task does add value in terms of the law of this country, in regards to ensuring this nation has good law is a public good and I think the House of Lords contributes to that which is its principal role – its detailed legislative scrutiny, it improves the law of this country.

‘So we want to, I would argue, retain that. So one has to be wary of some Big Bang reform, grand reform.’

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