Labour may abolish House of Lords if it wins next election, leaked report reveals

Labour is considering abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with an upper house of nations and regions, as well as handing sweeping new powers to local regions and devolved nations, a leaked report has revealed.

The constitutional review by the former prime minister Gordon Brown, which has been seen by MPs and shadow cabinet ministers, recommends devolving new economic powers, including over taxation, and creating new independent councils of the nations and for England.

The review, seen by the Guardian, recommends:

  • New tax powers for some devolved governments, which could include stamp duty.

  • Powers for local people to promote bills in parliament via democratically elected bodies.

  • A constitutional guarantee of social and economic rights.

  • Powers for mayors on education, transport and research funding.

Brown also recommends a crackdown on standards in central government and parliament, including a jury of ordinary citizens – selected by ballot – being able to rule on complaints against MPs and ministers via a new integrity and ethics commission.

He recommends banning most second jobs for MPs, which the party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has already announced, as well as new codes of conduct to replace the ministerial code, and giving the electoral commission the power to hand out larger fines.

The review has been subject to intense internal debate and several shadow cabinet ministers have privately expressed scepticism about some of the proposals, which are radical and far-reaching.

The measures are not expected to be agreed in time for the Labour party’s conference and had been scheduled for a major launch later in the year.

Starmer hinted in his Liverpool speech earlier this year that the reforms would “allow devolved and local government to make long-term financial decisions. To reap the rewards of investment in their economy. That way you make sure every city, every town, every place takes ownership of their contribution.”

The House of Lords would be reformed as an assembly of regions and nations, with a remit of safeguarding the constitution and with power to refer the government to the supreme court. Labour peers are being consulted on the proposals.

Local democratically elected bodies will be able to promote bills in parliament for local purpose, which the review said would allow English regional devolution to grow over time.

At the heart of Brown’s recommendations is to give citizens a constitutional guarantee of social and economic rights, including a right to healthcare, education and social protection.

He recommends giving regions economic powers to be the centres of new industries, citing the examples of financial services in Canary Wharf, biopharma in Cambridge and video games in Dundee.

Mayors could get full powers over local training and further education budgets, as well as further powers over transport, infrastructure and planning. Local leaders could get the powers to allocate local investment for national research and development funding into local universities.

Local and devolved authorities would be given a minimum of three years’ funding to give them certainty for longer-term planning.

Brown was commissioned to undertake the review by Starmer in September last year and the work has undergone a number of revisions. Starmer said the plans would set out a “fresh and tangible offer” to voters who had turned away from the party, especially to the Scottish National party in Scotland and to the Tories in the north of England.

Starmer promised it would be “the boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation and every bit as bold and radical as the programme of devolution that Labour delivered in the 1990s and 2000s”.

Brown has made significant interventions over the past few months on the cost of living crisis, including throwing down the gauntlet to Starmer to announce a freeze on energy bills, but going further and saying the government should nationalise energy firms that would not give consumers lower bills.

A Labour spokesperson said: “This refers to one of several early drafts. The commission has yet to take a view on all these issues.”

The Guardian

Leave a Reply