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Keir Starmer has boldly promised to reform the House of Lords to “restore trust in politics” and to filter out the “lackeys and donors.” Starmer’s calls for reform come after a number of concerning appointments and nominations by Boris Johnson. Starmer’s solution is to have an elected chamber to replace the House of Lords, as outlined at the launch of Labour’s new report on constitutional reform last week.

Although the House of Lords is ripe for reform, Starmer should be cautious of creating an elected upper chamber. Instead, Starmer should look to expand the power of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The Commission – established in 2000 – currently holds two functions: recommending the appointments of non-party-political peers and vetting the nominations of all peers, but these functions are simply not extensive enough. 

Widening the power of the House of Lords Appointments Commission so that they can block recommendations of appointments would help achieve Starmer’s goal to reform the House of Lords, adding accountability to the appointments process. The Commission should be given the power to block nominations made by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister would be able to make recommendations, but not direct appointments to the upper chamber of Parliament as current convention dictates. 

The House of Lords Appointments Commission should therefore play a similar role to other vetting procedures, such as the Advisory Commission on Business Appointments. This would ensure that individuals appointed to the House of Lords do not compromise national security, tilt legislation to benefit their own interests and are appointed on merit.

There will be concerns that the Chair of the Commission should be neutral and cannot be affiliated with any political party. But, the House of Lords Appointments Commission already consists of seven members including a representative from every major political party, and therefore is well-balanced and politically neutral. 

Starmer must make sure he plays his cards right. If he wants to pull off such a major constitutional reform, he would do well to offer a compromise along these lines, which will help restore trust in politics and stop unearned peerages being handed out.

Max Jablonowski is an Events and Communications Officer for Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image:]