Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is exploring plans to scrap the House of Lords and replace the second chamber of the UK parliament with an elected body, as part of efforts to rebuild public trust in politics.
The main opposition party aims to include the reform plans in its 2024 election manifesto after holding a consultation on the composition, appointments process and size of the new chamber.
Last week, Starmer told Labour peers that reforming the Lords would be necessary to restore the trust of the public in government. He criticised former prime minister Boris Johnson for appointing “lackeys and donors” and riding “roughshod over the appointments system”.
The proposed reforms, first reported by the Observer, would end the ability of prime ministers to appoint people to the second chamber and ensure it had proper regional representation.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said on Sunday it was time to democratise the Lords, adding that trust in politicians was low because of the actions of politicians, including Johnson.
“There is great expertise in the House of Lords and very good people in the House of Lords, but we need to bring it into the 21st century, it needs to be a modern second chamber and it needs to be elected,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge Programme.
“This is part of a recommendation from a commission that will soon be published,” Ashworth added, referring to a constitutional commission set up by Starmer in 2020, which is chaired by former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.
Starmer said earlier this year that its role was to “create a new blueprint for a new Britain”. He had previously described it at as “the boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation,” adding: “This won’t be an exercise in shifting power from one parliament to another — of moving a few jobs out of London, or to devolve and to forget.”
Brown’s recommendations are yet to be made public. However a leaked draft earlier this year suggested that they included proposals to reform the Lords into an assembly of regions and nations, boost the power of local mayors and increased funding for local and devolved authorities.
Johnson has faced strong criticism over his appointments to the House of Lords. Earlier this year, Labour attacked the former prime minister for giving the Russian businessman Lord Evgeny Lebedev a peerage in 2020, after reports that British intelligence services had opposed it on national security grounds.
Meanwhile, the Times newspaper recently reported that Johnson was set to recommend that a group of loyal advisers join the Lords including Dan Rosenfield, the former Downing Street chief of staff and the former culture secretary Nadine Dorries.