A Labor shadow secretary today insisted the party would abolish the House of Lords within the first five years of taking power – although Sir Keir Starmer balked at the commitment.
The Labor leader is set to present proposals for economic and political reforms alongside former Prime Minister Gordon Brown tomorrow.
The ex-PM has been working on a constitutional review for Sir Keir, which is expected to recommend giving cities, English regions and decentralized nations more decision-making powers.
But Sir Keir and Mr Brown have reportedly clashed over a promise to replace the Lords with an elected chamber, with claims the promise could be watered down at the last moment.
Last month, Sir Keir reportedly told his party colleagues that he wanted to overtake the Lords within the first term of a Labor government.
But the Labor leader has now hinted he may not be able to oversee Lords reform until it wins a second general election.
Sir Keir also made no mention of Labor plans for the upper chamber of Parliament in a newspaper article he wrote this weekend ahead of the publication of Mr Brown’s report.
Despite suggestions that Sir Keir had backed down on his promise to reform the Lords in the first term of a Labor government, one of his top frontbenchers today insisted the party remains “absolutely” committed to an elected lower chamber.
A Labor shadow minister today insisted the party would abolish the House of Lords within the first five years of taking power
Sir Keir Starmer will tomorrow present proposals for economic and political reform alongside former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
But Sir Keir and Mr Brown have reportedly clashed over a promise to replace the Lords with an elected chamber
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson insisted her party still plans to reform the Lords within the first term of a Labor government
Asked on the BBC’s Sunday program with Laura Kuenssberg whether the Lords reform would take place in the early years of a Labor government, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson replied: “That is the plan.
“We will discuss before the manifesto how we can do that.”
Sir Keir avoided making the same commitment in an interview with the Sunday Times.
The Labor leader admitted there were “implementation issues” and told the newspaper: “The answer is that this is the part of the discussion that comes after Monday because that is the testing of the proposals, the refining and then the critical answer, thinking about when and how that will be implemented.
“What will require legislation, what will not require legislation, whether we want to take each of the steps.
“The purpose of this is to create a manifesto that says this is the overall project, these are the parts we intend to do in five years, this is the delivery you can expect.”
Mr Brown has been appointed by Sir Keir to conduct his 2020 constitutional review.
It has been claimed that the Labor leader’s team were unsure whether they would fully embrace some of the radicalism of the former Prime Minister’s plans.
In an article for The Observer, Sir Keir wrote that this week’s unveiling of Mr Brown’s proposals “will be the start of a journey of power ousting from Westminster and standards raising”.
He added: The beginning of showing how politics can once again be a force for good.
“The start of making Britain a fairer, greener and more dynamic country. But more than that, it will be the start of ensuring that the tools to build that better future are right in the hands of the people.”
But the Labor leader made no direct mention of Lord’s reform in his article.
Tory peer Lord Norton insisted Lords should not remain elected and warned of ‘big bang reform’ in the upper chamber of Parliament.
“The problems with Gordon Brown’s proposals and to some extent what Keir Starmer has said, on the one hand he spoke of getting rid of the Lord while retaining his current functions as if separate entities could be separated – the way One body is chosen and the work that she does – and the two are clearly linked,” he told Times Radio.
“So the task at hand has added value in relation to the law of this country, to ensure that this country has good law as a public good, and I think the House of Lords contributes to its main task – its detailed legislative scrutiny, improving it the law of this country.
“So we want, I would argue, to keep that. So you have to be wary of any big bang reform, any big reform.’