House of Lords: Abolition — [Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:07 pm on 18th June 2018.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:07 pm, 18th June 2018

It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. I am pleased to say that I agree almost entirely with David T. C. Davies, but I come at the issue from a completely different perspective. We may come to the same conclusion, but we have different reasons for wanting the abolition of the House of Lords.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here in 2003—he may have avoided that—when we had the vote on the future of the House of Lords. A White Paper offered seven options, all seven of which the House of Commons voted down. We do not have a terribly good track record of addressing the issue. We looked again in 2007—I think the hon. Gentleman was with us then—and made some progress. Surprisingly, the Commons came to an agreement that we wanted our Parliament to be bicameral, with an elected upper Chamber and that hereditaries would be abolished. Sadly, the Government fell in 2010, and for the last eight years we do not seem to have made much progress.

It is about time we revisited the issue, because it is pretty obvious that this petition strikes a chord. People do not sign in such numbers—169,000 and mounting as we speak—unless they feel quite strongly about an issue. The petition may have been brought on by Brexit and people’s antagonism towards the Lords for the way it has performed, but the debate goes much deeper than that. As someone with an awful lot of friends in the Lords—I may have fewer after this speech—I think it is time that we looked at what we want to be done, not just by the Lords but by the Commons.

I think I voted in favour of an elected chamber last time around, but I now believe we must abolish the Lords. Why have I come around in favour of abolition? Quite simply, it is because I do not believe we will ever do anything unless we abolish the Lords. We would have to put something in its place, but we must start with the nihilistic approach, if I can put it like that, of getting rid of what exists. We cannot carry on in the way we have been going. The latest attempt at reform by the Lord Speaker’s Committee demonstrates why we cannot let the House of Lords reform itself. The proposal is minimalistic and unacceptable, and I am sure it will never get through the Commons, so I do not know why it was even brought forward.