The Mail on Sunday

Rebel Tories: Kick bish­ops out of Lords

- By Bren­dan Car­lin PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER

RAD­I­CAL plans to kick bish­ops out of the House of Lords are be­ing pro­posed by MPs as the price of a con­tro­ver­sial bid to slash the size of the Com­mons.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was last night told to prune the ‘bloated’ Lords or ditch pro­pos­als to re­duce the num­ber of MPs from 650 to 600.

The ul­ti­ma­tum from rebel Tories came ahead of the re­lease this week of de­tailed pro­pos­als to axe 50 con­stituen­cies at the next Gen­eral Elec­tion.

The move – part of a Tory man­i­festo pledge to ‘cut the cost of pol­i­tics’ – will trig­ger bit­ter turf wars among MPs over whose seats will go.

Se­nior Tory MP Charles Walker branded the plans ‘ridicu­lous’ if they were not matched by sim­i­lar mea­sures to cut the size of the ‘bloated’ and un­elected House of Lords, which has 805 mem­bers.

Mr Walker, chair­man of the in­flu­en­tial Com­mons’ Pro­ce­dure Com­mit­tee, set out a rad­i­cal plan in­volv­ing:

Eject­ing 21 Church of Eng­land bish­ops from the Lords, leav­ing only five se­nior ‘Lords Spir­i­tual’ – in­clud­ing the Archbishop of Can­ter­bury;

Re­mov­ing the re­main­ing 92 hered­i­tary peers;

Re­quir­ing all other peers to stand down au­to­mat­i­cally af­ter 20 years’ ser­vice.

His blue­print was ac­com­pa­nied by warn­ings from other MPs that Mrs May, who has a work­ing Com­mons ma­jor­ity of only 17, will lose the vote to re­duce the num­ber of MPs un­less she makes ma­jor con­ces­sions.

Labour, which could lose up to 30 seats from the shake-up, is al­ready set to op­pose the plans. And Mr Walker point­edly re­fused to rule out vot­ing with Labour if the Prime Min­is­ter failed to com­pro­mise.

He sug­gested Bri­tain could look like a ‘ba­nana repub­lic’ if it slashed the num­ber of elected MPs and kept en­larg­ing the un­elected Lords.

He said: ‘I do not be­lieve we can con­tem­plate re­duc­ing the num­ber of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives sit­ting in our Par­lia­ment be­fore we have ad­dressed the size of the Lords.’

He added that he was happy to stay with the sys­tem where peers were ap­pointed rather than elected.

But he said: ‘We need to get the num­ber down to 600 or be­low.’

Fel­low Tory Philip Davies also at­tacked the MP re­duc­tion plans, and warned: ‘Most Tory MPs do not sup­port cut­ting the size of the Com­mons.’

Last night Gov­ern­ment sources said Mrs May was com­mit­ted to hon­our­ing the con­stituency bound­aries as promised in the 2015 Tory man­i­festo which vowed to ‘make votes of more equal value’.

One Tory MP said: ‘We have widely dif­fer­ent con­stituency sizes in terms of vot­ers and we need to equalise so that, as near as pos­si­ble, one per­son’s vote in one part of the coun­try is worth the same as another per­son’s in another seat.’

MPs will be able to ap­peal against the de­tailed con­stituency pro­pos­als ahead of a fi­nal Com­mons vote in 2018.

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