Tory MPs call on ‘complete overhaul’ of the House of Lords

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The House of Lords must be reformed after its votes to thwart Brexit, leading Tory MPs said yesterday.

Describing peers as out of control, they said the Upper House had gone too far with amendments wrecking the Government’s EU legislation.

Iain Duncan Smith warned there had to be a ‘reckoning’ and a ‘complete and total overhaul’ of the Lords. The backlash was sparked by peers voting to keep Britain in the Single Market and to remove the fixed date for leaving the EU.

They have now amended the Withdrawal Bill 14 times.

Iain Duncan-Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party during the weekly Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons, London warned there had to be a ‘reckoning’ and a ‘complete and total overhaul’ of the Lords

Iain Duncan-Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party during the weekly Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons, London warned there had to be a ‘reckoning’ and a ‘complete and total overhaul’ of the Lords

Iain Duncan-Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party during the weekly Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons, London warned there had to be a ‘reckoning’ and a ‘complete and total overhaul’ of the Lords

The latest two votes were spearheaded by the Duke of Wellington, a Europhile former MEP, and Lord Alli, a TV mogul who advised Tony Blair on youth culture. Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski said abolition of the House of Lords should be in his party’s next election manifesto.

‘These unelected Lords, some of whom are still there despite being bankrupt or going to jail, are completely out of control,’ he said. ‘The time has come to have a root-and-branch reform. These people are now hurting the UK’s negotiating position with Brussels, which is unforgivable.’

Mr Kawczynski said peers had been deliberately trying to overturn the result of the European referendum of June 2016.

Mr Duncan Smith, who led the Tories from 2001 to 2003, said: ‘After this is all over, there will have to be a reckoning, a complete and total overhaul of the House of Lords. That reckoning I’m afraid is one they have brought on themselves. I have believed in reforming the upper chamber for years. Their behaviour on this bill, to defeat the Government 14 times is to almost rewrite it. It is unprecedented and displays the enormous arrogance of some of them.’

Bernard Jenkin, the Tory chairman of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee, said it was appalling that peers felt entitled to vote to keep Britain in the single market.

He added: ‘They have completely ignored what is known as the Salisbury Convention, where traditionally for 100 years the House of Lords has respected the manifesto commitments of an elected government to be no-go areas for challenging the Commons.

‘The two main parties all had in their manifestos that we were leaving the EU, leaving the single market and leaving the customs union. They have broken all the conventions. On Tuesday night, they inflicted four defeats on the Government in one evening.

The FOURTEEN times Lords have waded in 

The Government has been defeated 14 times in the Lords at the report stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill. 

Peers backed a series of amendments that include keeping the EU charter of fundamental rights, scrapping the fixed exit date and now staying in the European Economic Area.

Amendment 1: Requires the Government to make a statement on its efforts to negotiate a customs union

Amendment 2: Insists changes to employments, equality, health and safety, consumer standards and environmental law can only be made by primary legislation

Amendment 3: Incorporates the EU’s controversial Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law

Amendment 4: Ends ministers’ ability to specify when individuals are allowed to challenge EU law kept after Brexit

Amendment 5: Creates a right to bring court cases if the UK fails to comply with the general principles of EU law

Amendment 6: Limits the scope of so-called ‘Henry VIII’ powers that will allow ministers to re-write EU laws as they are copied into British law

Amendment 7: Removes Theresa May’s ability to walk away from Brexit talks without a vote of Parliament

Amendment 8: Stops ministers implementing the deal unless Parliament has approved a mandate for negotiations about the future relationship.

Amendment 9: Maintains Dublin Regulations allowing asylum seekers who reach Europe to join family already in Britain

Amendment 10: Enshrines support for the Good Friday Agreement in the Bill

Amendment 11: Allows Government to stay in EU agencies or mirror EU rules

Amendment 12: Removes the 29 March 2019 fixed Brexit date from the Bill

Amendment 13: Forces the Government to negotiate continued membership of the European Economic Area

Amendment 14: Creates a parliamentary committee to decide on whether extra scrutiny is needed on certain regulations

‘They have become drunk with their own prejudices in defiance of how the people voted in the referendum and the last general election. I very much doubt they will press these amendments a second time. I expect the House of Commons will defeat them all.

‘I don’t think they will try their luck a second time. If they did, then were are into very big constitutional territory.’

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, who leads the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said the House of Lords had made itself appear undemocratic and out of touch.

‘It raises the issues of reform again,’ he added. ‘It leaves them with very few supporters.

‘It is not a loved institution, it is a tolerated institution when it obeys the constitutional norms, if it ignores them it has very little support left. They are completely obsessed by the European Union. They are people who have devoted their whole life to it. Their whole aim is to stop Brexit.’

The 14 amendments will now be sent back to the Commons where they will be considered by MPs. Ministers are expected to ask for them all to be deleted.

The last to be passed – following the exit date and Single Market amendments – called for the creation of a parliamentary committee to decide on whether extra scrutiny is needed on certain regulations

Mrs May’s official spokesman yesterday said the Prime Minister was disappointed by the latest defeats. ‘The legislation is intended to deliver the smooth Brexit which is in the interests of everybody in the UK,’ he added.

‘We will not accept attempts to use this legislation to stop us taking back control of our money, our laws and our borders.’

A senior Labour spokesman said Jeremy Corbyn believed staying in the single market would stop him from pursuing his left-wing agenda, including state aid and nationalisations. He said Britain needed a relationship with the EU that would ‘offer the flexibility needed to achieve a step change in how the economy is run’.

The spokesman declined to say whether the party’s MPs would be told to abstain in the Commons on the amendment to keep the UK in the European Economic Area.

Peers passed the amendment on Tuesday thanks to a large rebellion by Labour Lords in defiance of Mr Corbyn’s orders to abstain.

Asked whether Mr Corbyn would take advantage of the potential opportunity to defeat the Government in the Commons by joining Tory rebels in voting for EEA membership, the Labour spokesman said: ‘EEA membership includes a number of different types of relationship with the EU, but it is not what we are proposing.’

It is understood that Mrs May has ruled out any immediate sanctions to the Lords, including an option to appoint 100 new Tory peers to help Brexit legislation get passed.

Last year, a report by Lord Burns, a crossbench peer and former head of the Treasury, recommended that the Upper House should be progressively slimmed down, to a total of 600 members over the next decade.

In her response to the report in February, Mrs May pledged to show restraint in the number of appointments she makes to the Lords.

n More academics from the EU have arrived in the UK than have left in the last year despite fears of a Brexit ‘brain drain’ from our universities, figures suggest.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows the number of lecturers and researchers arriving was 25 per cent higher than those leaving.

The figures, reported by the Spectator, suggest that concerns over foreign dons flooding out of the country after the vote may have been unfounded.