House of Lords Membership

Cabinet Office and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

What steps he is taking to reduce the size of the membership of the House of Lords.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The Government are committed to supporting measures to reduce the size of the other place on which they can command a consensus across both Houses, such as the positive trend in retirements. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is also committed to maintaining her restrained approach to appointments.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

The Minister mentioned consensus, but the reality is that due to Brexit and the PM’s failed leadership, this House is completely gridlocked, which gives the bishops and hereditary peers in the unelected Lords more power than ever and a greater say in Scotland’s future than the Scottish Parliament itself. Does he agree with his Scottish Tory colleague, MSP Murdo Fraser, that the other place needs to be scrapped?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

In the last week we sat, the Scottish National party was praising the House of peers. This week it is calling for it to be scrapped again. The focus now, with the issues facing this country, is to get on with delivering a Brexit deal that works for the whole United Kingdom, rather than spend our time building constitutional grievances, as the separatists wish to do.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment to the Front Bench and his outstanding responses so far. Notwithstanding any reservations we may have about the unelected place, is it not the case that on occasion, the standard of debate there can be a lot higher than here?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I thank my hon. Friend. I am sure that over his 27 years in this House he has seen plenty of very high-standard debates. In fact, he has contributed to raising that standard on many occasions. The House of Lords plays a special part in our constitution as a revising Chamber, subject, as always, to the supremacy of this elected House.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

I welcome the Minister to his place. Unelected, out of touch, unresponsive—the House of Lords is not only a relic from a bygone era; it is a stain on our modern democracy. When will the Cabinet team live up to its public duty and lead a serious constitutional debate in this country to modernise our democracy and get rid of the House of Lords?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

As I touched on earlier, the vast majority of people in this country—certainly in Torbay, and across the rest of the UK—would not see this House spending months on constitutional navel-gazing as the top priority at the moment. Many people have talked about reforming the House of Lords over the last century, and the Government will look at proposals that could enjoy a broad consensus, but for now, with the pressures on the legislative programme, few would understand if we decided to dedicate months to this.