Labour criticised for ‘U-turning’ on plans to abolish the House of Lords

Labour has faced criticism for “U-turning” on its previous proposals to abolish the House of Lords.

During his 2020 leadership campaign, Sir Keir Starmer promised to abolish the House of Lords, but according to reports in The Times the Labour leader appears to have abandoned this.

According to the newspaper, Labour’s election manifesto – which was agreed at the party’s closed-doors Clause V meeting on Friday – will include plans to introduce an age limit for peers and scrap new hereditary roles.

Keir Starmer leaving car
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In 2022, he backed a report drawn up by former prime minister Gordon Brown that sets out plans for a regionally elected chamber that is around a quarter the size of now.

At the time, the Labour leader said he would abolish the “indefensible” House of Lords “as quickly as possible”, ideally within the first term of a Labour government.

Left-wing campaign group Momentum accused the Labour leadership of promising change but being “allergic” to following through with it.

Under the proposals, peers will be able to serve until they are 80 years old, or until the end of the parliament in which they reach that age.

A ban on new hereditary peers is also suggested in a bid to reduce the size of the House.

A spokesperson for Momentum said: “This is yet another disappointing Starmer U-turn.

“The House of Lords is an anti-democratic institution well past its sell-by date. Years of Tory cronyism underline the need to scrap a system based on patronage among our political elite.

“Keir was right to pledge to abolish it in 2020 and again in 2022, following strong, detailed proposals from Gordon Brown. But once again, major progressive reforms have been junked by a Labour Leadership which rightly pledges change, but seems allergic to enacting it.”

This comes as Unite, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, declined to endorse the manifesto.

Sources told the PA news agency that Labour’s stance on practices like fire-and-rehire meant the affiliated union could not support its policy platform

Momentum also said it was “deeply disappointed” the party had not committed to free school meals or scrapping the two-child benefit cap.

“We need to kick out not just the Tories, but Tory policies too,” a spokesperson said.

Speaking at a 3 Lock Brewing Company in Camden on Saturday, Sir Keir said there “won’t be any surprises on tax” in Labour’s manifesto.

He added: “We finalised our manifesto yesterday, which was a great moment because at the end of the meeting it was acclaimed by everybody in the meeting.”

“I want the 2024 manifesto to be a story as it is about the future of the country, and to provide the winning platform for that election as we go into it,” he said.