What price 'devo' if we don't punch our weight in Lords?

House of Lords Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Our region's line-up in the Lords comprises nine Conservatives, 14 Labour peers, two Liberal Democrats, one UKIP and six non-partisan Crossbenchers.

Devolution revolution. It's certainly all the rage in the Commons these days.

There were repeated references to 'the Midlands Engine' during Prime Minister's Questions last week.

It's almost impossible to get through a conversation with our local MPs without them putting in a good word for their party's candidate in next May's election for Midlands 'Metro Mayor'.

The big challenge for that 'devo' agenda seems to be getting it through to the House of Lords.

Of 825 members of the Upper House, only 36 either live in, or have substantial connections with, our part of the country: under 5%.

As a proportion of the UK population, pro rata, we might qualify for twice that number.

The former Labour Leader Ed Miliband said recently: "The issue is not just constitutional, but economic, social and one of fairness. As it stands the House of Lords fails to represent large sections of the UK."

Our region's line-up comprises nine Conservatives, 14 Labour peers, two Liberal Democrats, one UKIP and six non-partisan Crossbenchers. Then there are our four Lords Spiritual, the bishops of Birmingham, Coventry, Gloucester and Worcester.

It seems ironic that just when the Government wants to reduce the number of MPs for the sake of efficiency and value-for-money (our Midlands contingent is due to fall by six), the number of unelected peers continues to grow apace.

Forty-five new peerages were awarded in David Cameron's resignation honours: the same David Cameron whose plans for a shake-up of the Lords have now been shelved by his successor, anxious to normalise relations in the run-up to Brexit.

What price Lords Reform now?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lord Jones says ministers will live to regret backing down on the reforming the House of Lords

The former Trade Minister and CBI Director General Lord (Digby) Jones of Birmingham, who now sits as a Crossbench peer, says ministers will live to regret backing down on reforming a House which he believes has overreached itself in blocking key legislation

"When you've got nine Liberal Democrats in the Commons but 100 in the Lords and they want to stay in the EU, I think they will rue the day," he says.

During a highly-charged Lords debate this week, he joined the chorus of support for Lady (Betty) Boothroyd, the Crossbench former Commons Speaker and erstwhile Labour MP for West Bromwich West.

She called for an end to prime ministerial patronage and a 50% cut in the number of peers to 400. She accused David Cameron of "tarnishing the reputation of the House of Lords by stuffing it with too many former aides".

And the former Conservative MP for Staffordshire Lord (Patrick) Cormack chimed-in. The public image was of "an over-bloated House with too many numbers in it".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lady Boothroyd says David Cameron has "stuffed the House of Lords with too many former aides".

The debate culminated in a unanimous vote to reduce the size of the Upper House.

The Lord Speaker, the former Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield Lord (Norman) Fowler concluded: "The House of Lords today has made a unique statement by members themselves agreeing unanimously that it should be smaller. This is a significant step forward and represents a substantial consensus."

Could this turn out to be a landmark moment? Lord Fowler has been talking to our political reporter James Bovill for this week's Sunday Politics Midlands.

Joining us in the studio will be another of our ennobled former MPs: Lord (Peter) Snape of Wednesbury, formerly the Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lord Fowler believes there has a significant step forward by members agreeing the House should be smaller

Also with us will be the Business Minister and Conservative MP for Stourbridge, Margot James and the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, Rob Flello, who served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lord Falconer when he was the Lord Chancellor in the Labour Government.

I hope you will join us too.

Sunday Politics Midlands is at the usual time of 11.00 on BBC One this Sunday morning, 11 December 2016.

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