Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to abolish the House of Lords in his first term if he is elected 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 told Kay Burley: “It’s one of the recommendations, as you know, in today’s report.
“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 the House of Lords will be abolished within his first term as prime minister, Sir Keir replied: “Yes, I do.
“Because what I asked when I asked 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 be 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.
Asked if he will continue to nominate peers to the House of Lords, as Labour unveiled plans to abolish the upper chamber, Sir Keir later told the PA news agency: “Everyone wants a functioning House of Lords until it is abolished and replaced by a second chamber.”
Transfer of power
The proposal forms part of Labour’s blueprint for a “New Britain”, outlined in the report of its commission on the UK’s future – headed by former PM Gordon Brown.
Unveiling the report at a joint press conference with Sir Keir in Leeds, Mr Brown said the work is proposing “the biggest transfer of power out of Westminster and Whitehall” that “our country has seen”.
Sir Keir told the audience: “You are being held back. Held back by a system that hoards power in Westminster.
“A system which smugly thinks it knows what skills, transport, planning and job support West Yorkshire needs better than the people who live here.
“I’ve long been convinced that this broken model has held back our politics and held back our economy. And I’m determined we unbind ourselves and free our potential.”
The report on the UK’s future, commissioned two years ago, also makes the following recommendations:
• Handing new economic, taxation and law-making powers to mayors and devolved governments
• Sweeping constitutional reform in an attempt to “clean up politics”
• Banning almost all second jobs for MPs
• Moving 50,000 civil servants – 10% of the workforce – out of London
• Developing 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
‘Scotland has an alternative’
Sir Keir and Mr Brown also took the launch to Scotland, promising extra powers for the country – as well as for Wales, and restored and strengthened devolution in Northern Ireland – and a new culture of co-operation across the whole of the UK.
Pointing to the last Scottish independence referendum, Mr Brown said: “In 2014, I had so many people saying I’m voting for independence because I think there isn’t any other alternative to change Scotland or to change Britain.
“Now, we an alternative. Now we have a set of proposals that are ground-breaking, that can actually make a difference.
“The debate is no longer between the status quo and independence. The debate is no longer between yes and no. The debate is no longer between change and no change.
“The debate is between change within the United Kingdom, led by the Labour Party, and change by leaving the United Kingdom, which would not benefit Scotland under the Scottish National Party.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sawar also joined the pair and told reporters: “For 12 years in Scotland, people haven’t believed that we could deliver a Labour government and therefore deliver change – that’s the difference with this report. People believe a Labour government is possible.
“People know there is a better way of doing things and that will be delivered by Keir Starmer as our prime minister in the first term of a Labour government. That is a transformative change.”
But Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie said his government had “devolved more power out of London than any government before it” and it would “carry on delivering”.
“More cooperation is of course right, it is something we are calling for… but the Scottish people are not marching in the streets for a change to the devolution settlement,” he told reporters.
“The Scottish people want to see both their governments working together for the benefit of the Scottish economy and the wider Scottish people.”
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.”