Starmer pledges to abolish House of Lords in first term as PM

Politics

Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to abolish the House of Lords in his first term if he were to be elected as prime minister.

Speaking to Sky News, the Labour leader confirmed his party “do want to abolish the House of Lords“, adding that he does not think anybody could “defend” the institution.

Sir Keir’s comments come as he and former PM Gordon Brown prepare to unveil the report of the party’s commission on the UK’s future – which Mr Brown led – at a joint press conference in Leeds later today.

Yesterday, Mr Brown said his party will make abolishing the House of Lords a key part of reforms to the parliamentary system and disclosed that it is a proposal included in the report he headed up for Labour.

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Branding the current House of Lords set-up “indefensible”, he said Labour will create a new democratic second chamber called the Assembly of Nations and Regions.

Probed on this, Sir Keir told Kay Burley: “It’s one of the recommendations, as you know, in today’s report.

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“What we’re going to do after today is now consult on those recommendations, test them, and in particular, look at how can they be implemented.”

Asked if it is his hope that the House of Lords will be abolished within his first term as PM, Sir Keir replied: “Yes, I do.

“Because what I ask when I ask Gordon Brown to set up the commission to do this, I said what I want is recommendations that are capable of being implemented in the first term.”

He added: “We’re going to get one shot at fixing our economy and fixing our politics and I want to make sure we get it exactly right.”

But Tory peer Lord Norton has urged caution over proposed reform to parliament’s second chamber after suggestions it should replaced with elected representatives.

“One has to be wary of some Big Bang reform, grand reform, which often takes the form of displacement activity – the nation’s got problems, people must come up with constitutional reform because it’s a fairly simple, straightforward proposal, rather than actually getting down to the real issues,” he told Times Radio.

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‘Government has run out of road’

The report on the UK’s future, commissioned two years ago, also recommending handing new economic, taxation and law-making powers to mayors and devolved governments and proposes sweeping constitutional reform in an attempt to “clean up politics”.

It includes banning almost all second jobs for MPs and moving 50,000 civil servants – 10% of the workforce – out of London.

Sir Keir also wants to develop 300 “economic clusters” around the country – from precision medicine in Glasgow to creative media in Bristol and Bath – with the aim of doubling growth in the UK.

The decentralisation of power and money away from Westminster will be pitched as a continuation of Tony Blair’s reforms and Labour’s answer to the Tories’ levelling up agenda – as Sir Keir looks to pitch himself as a prime minister-in-waiting with a serious plan for Britain.

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The Labour leader will also frame this report as a response to both the Brexit and Scottish independence referendums.

“I argued for remain. But I couldn’t disagree with the basic case that many leave voters made to me. They wanted democratic control over their lives,” Sir Keir will say, arguing these frustrations of “a Westminster system that seems remote” was also a drive for the 2014 independence referendum.

“People know Britain needs change. But they are never going to get it from the Tories.

“I am determined that, with Labour, people will get the change they deserve.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Image:
Former prime minister Gordon Brown led the production of the report

Elsewhere in his morning broadcast media round, Sir Keir said he does not want to abolish private schools, but argued their existing tax breaks cannot be “justified”.

He also said he does not believe returning to the single market would boost the UK’s economic growth – but added that he believes there is a case for a “better Brexit”.

Meanwhile, probed on whether former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could be readmitted to the party, Sir Keir told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “I don’t see the circumstances in which he will stand at the next election as a Labour MP.”

Mr Corbyn had the whip removed over his response to the scathing Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into antisemitism in the party.

A government source said: “This report highlights what we already know about Labour – that while the government is focusing on the major issues people care about, Keir Starmer is playing politics with topics only relevant in Westminster.”

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