House of Lords move to York shows Boris Johnson is living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’ say Yorkshire peers

Could York be the new home of the House of Lords?
Could York be the new home of the House of Lords?
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PEERS from Yorkshire challenged Boris Johnson to prioritise House of Lords reform and scrutiny of Ministers over any move to the north of England.

Anne McIntosh, the former Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton, said there should be an elected second chamber with around 400 members.

The House of Lords could relocate to York.

The House of Lords could relocate to York.

And Paul Scriven, the former Lib Dem leader of Sheffield City Council, accused Boris Johnson of “living in cloud cuckoo land”.

It comes after The Sunday Times reported that Mr Johnson’s government is considering moving the House of Lords to York permanently.

Citing unnamed sources, it claimed that the Prime Minister ordered work to begin last week on the practicalities of such a move.

Naming the prestigious York Central regeneration site next to the city’s railway station as a site, it said the location will be determined by a constitutional review which is due to be launched in the spring.

Tory peer Anne McIntosh.

Tory peer Anne McIntosh.

The report also suggested that an architectural competition would take place to design the new building to ensure it provides value for money.

And while there is no detail on how symbolic events, like the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen, would take place, a government source was quoted as saying that the York proposal is being advanced.

They added: “The PM is also keen to have parliamentary sessions in the regions, be it Sunderland or Manchester, so people get a chance to feel democracy in action at first hand.”

But Baroness McIntosh of Pickering suggested that there were flaws with the plan – even though she was among the first to advocate the relocation of both Houses of Parliament to York while restoration takes place at the Palace of Westminster.

She said it would make it harder for peers to scrutinise Ministers if they have to travel to and from London to answer questions in person – and that an elected second chamber should be considered.

“You’ve got to have Ministers available for scrutiny,” she told The Yorkshire Post. “It looks like that it will be a glorified Committee of the Regions.

“I can argue that there is a role for this, and I’m sure Yorkshire would dearly love to have it, but the question of scrutiny is an important one.

“The plan needs to be much more clearly thought through. I’m not afraid of elections would not be opposed to an elected chamber with 400-450 peers.”

Meanwhile Lord Scriven of Hunters Bar accused Mr Johnson of creating a “bit of a side show” to mask the Government’s failure to accelerate the Northern Powerhouse and devolution policy agendas.

“It is an interesting idea but, in reality, the Prime Minister is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks relocating the Lords to the North will mean a power shift away form London,” he said.

Lord Scriven suggested the Government was trying to leverage more power for Ministers so both Houses of Parliament could be bypassed.

“If they are serious about relocating the Lords, and constitutional change, any modern, progressive Prime Minister would want to get rid of an unelected chamber and bring about a radical new type of chamber that is elected, and which is a power base for the regions and cities of the UK.”

There are currently around 800 members of the Lords and outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is said to be nominating John Bercow, the former Speaker, for a peerage in the next raft of political appointees.

When pressed to say if the Lords could leave Westminster, Tory chairman James Cleverly said: “We might. It’s one of a range of things that we are looking into. But fundamentally what this is about is about demonstrating that we are going to do things differently.”

And International Development Secretary Alok Sharma added: “As a principle it’s a perfectly good thing that we are connecting government to all parts of the country.”