Scottish Labour peer calls for ‘total reform’ of House of Lords

The paper calls for an overhaul of the House of Lords. Picture: Adrian Dennis/WPA rota/PA.
The paper calls for an overhaul of the House of Lords. Picture: Adrian Dennis/WPA rota/PA.
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An overhaul of the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster based on “partnership not hierarchy” should be implemented, according to a Labour peer appointed by Jeremy Corbyn to develop constitutional policy.

Baroness (Pauline) Bryan of Partick today published a paper which calls for ‘total reform’ of the House of Lords and a ‘new relationship’ between Scotland and Westminster.

The paper was launched at the Scottish Labour conference today during a fringe event hosted by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

The document takes the party much closer to backing full federalism and the abolition of the Lords, with a new second chamber likely to take its place.

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Baroness Bryan was designated the lead for updating the party’s policy on federalism and Lords reform.

The new federal set-up, according to the paper, will “move from the existing model, where power is devolved from the central state to Scotland.”

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It argues: “It should instead be a relationship of shared power based on partnership, not hierarchy. Under this arrangement there must be common minimum standards across the UK on human rights, employment rights, consumer protection and environmental protection and that the Scottish Parliament should have the power to enhance but never detract from these minimum standards.”

The peer adds: “The point is to change the relationship so that the Scottish Parliament is no longer subordinate to Westminster. A second chamber of the Regions and Nations would change the nature of the relations to shared government on the cross territorial issues.”

This would mean that instead of the House of Commons having enjoying primacy over the devolved assemblies, this would be a new settlement of “shared sovereignty.”

Jeremy Corbyn has previously spoken out in favour of replacing the Lords with an elected second chamber.

A reformed – most-likely directly elected – second chamber would have a key role in this, bringing the nations and regions together to agree what powers should be devolved and which should be shared.

It comes as previously unreleased polling for the ERS shows that, when ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, support for an elected upper chamber sits at 71% for SNP voters and 65% for Conservatives across Britain . A majority of all main parties’ supporters back an elected second chamber.

The Bryan Paper - published by the Red Paper collective - demands a ‘partnership’ model for Westminster and Scotland, backed up by a reformed second chamber for the nations and regions.

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral reform Society Scotland, said: “The piecemeal, ad hoc approach to democratic change in the UK has held us back, with a constant, low-level constitutional crisis: with Scotland and the other nations pitted against Westminster, and vice versa.

“That is not a sustainable relationship and it is time for an approach the puts citizens at the centre, not the needs of politicians. What form this reform takes is up for discussion, but it is good to see parties considering this in the round.

“As this briefing points out, the primary way to reform the bloated, unelected House of Lords is to replace it with a fairly-elected revising chamber, with a clearly defined remit and which can speak up for the nations and regions of the whole UK. Voters are tired of seeing scandal after scandal in the Lords with no way of kicking them out. A much-smaller, more effective second chamber would help draw to a close the era of unaccountable power and bring our democracy into the 21st century.”