Incoming Archbishop of York jokes House of Lords could set up in a marquee at Bishopthorpe as peers scoff at move suggestion

Members of the House of Lords today scoffed at and made jokes about the proposition that the country’s second chamber could be moved to York.

It was reported over the weekend that the Government was exploring the idea as part of Boris Johnson’s bid to connect people away from London - especially in the North - with democracy.

But as the issue was discussed by peers today, it appeared that little heed was being taken of the suggestion, with laughter filling the chamber.

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The soon-to-be Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, joked that he would “later this year have a large garden available in York where a suitable marquee could be erected for these purposes”.

The next Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell arrives at York Minster. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

And he added: “Since some of the most important business that we do in these Houses is actually not in the chambers itself, but in the corridors, it seems to me to be a very serious threat to our democratic processes if we're not in the same place, so I would ask the minister to perhaps say, could we reconsider this one, please?”

Addressing Earl Howe, who was responding on behalf of the Government, Conservative Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said: “Does he think that when the people in so many constituencies in the North lent their votes to the Conservative Party they were longing for more politicians to be sent there?”

He added: “Or does he think that they wanted a Government that would concentrate on the things that actually matter like health and social care and infrastructure? And shouldn't the special advisors in No 10 turn their attention to those matters?”

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Earl Howe replied: “There may be other and possibly more substantial ways to bring jobs and investment to the north of England.”

Yorkshire Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said that while the briefing given to the Sunday Times on the issue said Government research found it took three hours on the train from York to London, that when he made the journey last week it only took two.

He said: “Does this suggest that Government hasn’t really thought this through very much?”

And on a serious note he added: “There are now two issues the Government is muddling.

“Do we want to devolve power to the North of England, which the government has not yet fully addressed, particularly in refusing the One Yoshu proposals?

“And the other is reform of the House of Lords [ …] which again, the government has not addressed.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock made the point that any idea to move the House of Lords would have to be reconciled with the billions being spent of the regeneration of Parliament.

And Lord West of Spithead suggested that instead “No 10 might consider using one of the great Cunarders [cruise ship], as somewhere for the Lords to be based, therefore, it could go and visit all parts of the United Kingdom”.

The debate came after senior Tories said the House of Lords could be moved out of London in a bid to “reconnect” with voters.

Earlier today the idea was also criticised by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

During a talk in Westminster he Mr Brown said it would be a "cosmetic" change.

Instead, he said long-term reform of the House of Lords should use his example of the regional citizen assemblies and turn it into a "senate of regions and nations" to give a stronger voice to places that feel left behind.

Councils of the North - and in any other region that wants one - made up of councillors, MPs and elected mayors, could help direct resources to where needed, Mr Brown argued.

And, if the government of the day was refusing to listen, pressure applied jointly by the regional councils would eventually be "irresistible" for ministers, he predicted.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly yesterday said moving the Lords out of London was an option being considered by ministers.

Mr Cleverly told Sky News: "What we are looking at is a whole range of options about making sure every part of the UK feels properly connected from politics.

"When the PM stood up the day after the election and said this is going to be the people's government he meant it. That meant connecting people with government and politics.

"The referendum in 2016 wasn't just about our relationship with the EU, it was about millions of people and their relationship with politics as a whole."

When pressed to say if the move would happen, Mr 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."

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma told the BBC: "I'm not involved in the detail of it, but actually as a principle, as a principle it's a perfectly good thing that we are connecting government to all parts of the country.

"I mean, my own department, we've got over 1,000 people based in Scotland, East Kilbride.

"We're investing in that. And I think it's absolutely right that if you want to be a government of the people, you must reach out to people across the country."