YORKSHIRE voters would have the chance to vote for their own regional members of a new-look House of Lords under the Government’s radical reform plans.
Ministers published their contentious proposals for an historic overhaul of the Upper Chamber yesterday, replacing the appointed and hereditary peers with an 80 per cent elected Upper House.
The legislation, driven by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and central to the Lib Dems’ agenda in the coalition, would slim membership down from 800 to 450.
It would finally complete the removal of hereditary peers from the Second Chamber and introduce the first elected members in tranches of 120 at each of the next three general elections, with the process completed by 2025.
Many of the new members would be directly elected to represent specific regions. Yorkshire would eventually have 30 representatives, voting in 10 new members in 2015, 10 more in 2020 and a further 10 in 2025.
Figures published yesterday showed the annual running costs of the new-look chamber would rise by £13.6 million by 2025, when the changes are due to be fully-implemented.
However, Mr Clegg said that those costs would be covered by savings made from reducing the size of the House of Commons.
“If you take account of all the other changes we are making in the Houses of Parliament, the reform will lead to less expense to the taxpayer,” he said.
Mr Clegg said the Government was taking “fairly tough” measures to keep costs down, with members of the reformed chamber having no pensions or constituency offices and fewer staff.
Ministers have scrapped plans for a salary of about £60,000 for members of the new Upper House, instead paying them £300 for each day they attend – a maximum of about £45,000 a year.
Elected members would serve for a single 15-year term. Even after it is reformed, the chamber will continue to be known as the House of Lords - though its members will not be able to call themselves “Lord”.
The legislation also allows the Prime Minister of the day to place up to eight unelected Ministers into the second chamber.
Under the terms of the Bill, elections for the second chamber would be held alongside general elections, starting in 2015.
A form of proportional representation known as “semi-open list” will be used, where voters can opt to vote either for a political party or an individual candidate.
The 90 non-elected members will be appointed by a statutory Appointments Commission on a non-party basis.
And, in a move which has angered many supporters of reform, they will be joined by 12 Church of England bishops.
Amid warnings of a major rebellion from Conservative MPs, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted yesterday it was “time to make progress” on Lords reform after 100 years of discussions.
“There are opponents of Lords reform in every party. But there is a majority in this House for a mainly-elected House of Lords and I believe there’s a majority for that in the country,” he said.
In a further complication for the Government, Labour is to join with Conservative rebels to vote down a motion setting out its passage through Parliament.
Conservative opponents of reform - of whom there are thought to be as many as 100 MPs - hope to “talk out” the legislation.
Sources close to the Prime Minister denied that Conservative MPs were being given “a nod and a wink” that they could rebel over Lords reform.
Conservative MP Jesse Norman, a principal opponent of the reforms, said the Bill was a “total nonsense”.