House of Lords to move to the North
Plans to move peers permanently to York part of government pitch to consolidate gains in former Labour heartlands
The House of Lords could move permanently to the north of England under plans being considered by the government to realign the country’s political centre of gravity away from London.
The Sunday Times reports that Boris Johnson has “ordered work to begin on the practicalities of a move, in further evidence that the Conservatives are serious about cementing their gains in what were once Labour’s heartlands”.
York has emerged as the frontrunner to host the revamped House of Lords, with disused government-owned land close to the city’s railway station already having been identified as a prime site to build a new second chamber.
MPs and peers are due to vacate the Palace of Westminster in 2025 as part of a £3.5bn restoration plan, with the nearly 800 members of the upper chamber to decamp to the nearby Queen Elizabeth II Centre for six years.
“Shifting the Lords to northern England during that period, and potentially permanently, would be a symbol of Boris Johnson’s determination to ‘level up’ the rest of the UK with the capital,” says The Guardian.
If it were to go ahead it would mark the first time York has been a centre of political power since the English Civil War, although the Daily Express says “it is not clear how the state opening of Parliament, which sees members of the Commons summoned to the Lords, would work”.
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The proposed move is one “of a range of things” the government is looking at to “level up” different parts of Britain, Conservative chairman James Cleverly told Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday.
As part of what Cleverly said was a need to change the British public’s “relationship with politics as a whole”, the Conservative Party has already announced that its campaign headquarters will move out of London.
Under plans being considered as part of a broader constitutional review which would also look at the Supreme Court and the Lord Chancellor, the House of Commons could also go on tour around the country, holding several days of debates in cities outside London to connect parliament better to the world outside the Westminster village.
More radical plans to replace the unelected Lords with an at least partially elected chamber of the nations and regions “would give greater say in parliament to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England — a move the proposal’s supporters believe would help to maintain the Union”, says The Times.
Downing Street has “made it clear that the prime minister would be focusing on his domestic agenda to cement his support among voters in Labour's former heartlands, who abandoned Jeremy Corbyn at the polls in December”, The Independent says.
Johnson has asked officials to limit his travel plans over 2020 so he can focus on the home front, sources told the news site.