In a constitutional review conducted by former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the Labour party announced this morning a sweeping set of plans that could change the political system in the United Kingdom forever.
On top of the list of reforms, Labour have set out their plans to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a democratic second chamber should they win the next general election. The new suggested chamber, named the Assembly of Nations and Regions, would feature democratically voted representatives from across different UK nations and regions.
Labour leader, Sir Kier Starmer, has said that the undemocratic House of Lords is “indefensible” while Gordon Brown has said it is far too big in its current form. The former PM has predicted that the issue of the parliament’s second chamber will “come to a head” when Boris Johnson announces his resignation honours list which is likely to feature several new peers.
While the planned abolishment of the House of Lords is the headline-making reform to come from the announcement this morning, there were also 40 other recommendations outlined within the report.
Most notably, Starmer and Brown have laid out plans to give more power to local councils across the country. Former Prime Minister, Brown, has said that the plans will ditch a “century of centralisation that has brought us Conservative sleeve and Conservative scandal” and the idea that “the man in Whitehall knows best.”
If Labour do win the next general election, then they plan to devolve power to local communities on issues relating to education, transport, resources and finances. Sir Kier Starmer not only believes this will help grow the UK economy but insists that it is the right thing to do as local communities know better than the central government about the needs of their areas.
One idea is to transfer 638 job centres from government to local control. Labour argue that different areas have different employment needs so it makes little sense for central government to take ownership of job centres. Additionally, 200 education colleges across the country would also be handed over to local government as would key decisions over improving transport.
Sir Kier Starmer has said that “it’s completely wrong” that the current government ask local areas to bid for pots of money.
“I don’t see this as handing power away, I see it as putting power where it should be. Decisions about local communities are best made by those with skin in the game.”Kier Starmer, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party
The potential reforms didn’t stop there, either. Brown, who was tasked with this constitutional review last year, has stated that Labour would introduce a ban on foreign funding in British politics. This would eradicate any claims of outside interference and corruption.
Additionally, it has been proposed that MPs would be banned from taking on second jobs. Again, this would rule out the potential of elected members of parliament being accused of having outside agendas in their decision-making.
The Conservative Party have 266 members within the House of Lords – 93 more than Labour. With that figure expected to rise when Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list is officially confirmed, this report hasn’t gone down well with Tory MPs.
Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, has responded by saying that Labour is “not ready for government” and that abolishing the House of Lords won’t do much “to help the economy recover from Covid and Putin’s war.”
Meanwhile, Simon Clarke, the former Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has said that the idea to abolish the House of Lords is “utter stupidity” and would “fatally undermine the primacy of the Commons”.
Having an undemocratic chamber that holds significant power in relation to legislation is something that was always going to come to a head at some point. While many people will point to the fact that there are perhaps bigger fish to fry at this moment in time, creating a government that can be trusted should be a priority for every political party, not just one trying to win an election.
In regard to the devolution plans – it appears Labour are more committed to levelling up than the party that coined the phrase. This pledge to hand over power to local authorities will be the music to the ears of councillors up and down the country.