The Mail on Sunday
Rebel Tories: Kick bishops out of Lords
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.