ED MILIBAND has been accused of paying “lip service” to the principle of House of Lords reform as he set out plans to abolish the upper chamber and replace it with an elected senate.
The Labour leader yesterday told a conference in Blackpool the system “fails to represent large parts of the UK”.
He wants to ensure the new body properly represents all the towns, cities, regions and nations that make up Britain.
Miliband said the issue was not just constitutional, but economic, social and one of fairness.
But the Labour leader’s plans drew an angry response from the Liberal Democrats who bitterly accused the Labour Party of combining with Conservative MPs to wreck their plans to reform the Lords two years ago.
“Ed Miliband partnered up with backbench Tories to destroy the best chance this country has had to reform the Lords,” said Lib Dem deputy leader Sir Malcolm Bruce.
“We could have given the UK greater representation in Parliament, but when presented with the chance, he bottled it, turned his back and ran.
“This is simply lip-service from a Labour party who have no intention of actually delivering.”
Milliband said it would summon a constitutional convention early in the next parliament to consider how an elected senate would be established – including whether it could have specific regional representation functions.
Each region of England and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, would hold meetings before the convention where people would be asked for their views on the functions of the new body, as well as the most appropriate form of election.
Senators would be elected from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions instead of from constituencies the way MPs are at the moment.
In a speech to party activists in Blackpool, Miliband will say: “It cannot be right that the North West has almost the same population as London but only a small fraction of London’s number of peers.
“London is our capital and one of the world’s great cities but it cannot be right London has more members of the House of Lords than the East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, Northern Ireland, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber added together. No wonder the recovery isn’t working for most parts of Britain when the voices of most parts of Britain aren’t being heard.”
He added: “We will make the second chamber of Parliament truly a senate of the regions and nations of our whole country.”
Miliband’s announcement is part of a wider effort by Labour to pursue a policy of devolving power from Westminster.