Former Liberal leader calls for House of Lords to be abolished

David Steel will give a lecture to the Scottish Liberal Club.

Former Liberal leader calls for House of Lords to be abolished Getty Images

The House of Lords must be replaced to enable federalism across the UK as an alternative to Scottish independence, former liberal leader David Steel will say.

In a lecture to the Scottish Liberal Club on Wednesday evening, which Lord Steel “assumes” will be his last political speech, he will call for the House of Lords to be replaced with a senate elected by proportional representation.

Lord Steel will argue that federalism should also be “on the agenda” as a “more acceptable way forward than separation from the UK”.

“We have to look to total reform of the House of Lords if we are to argue the genuine case for home rule,” Lord Steel will say.

“The replacement of the Lords by an elected senate is the keystone to federalism.”

He suggests the creation of a 500-member upper chamber, 400 of those chosen on a party-political basis by proportional representation, with allocations from each nation.

A further 100 could be chosen by the same electorate, he argues, but would exclude any recent members or known supporters of any political party.

“These would replace the existing valuable wide range of independent expertise at present on the cross benches in the Lords,” he will say.

“A convention could be created where, in a reformed upper House, each section did not vote on matters which did not apply to their territory, thus partly answering the unanswerable West Lothian question.

“Its powers would remain the same as at present – in other words no veto, only delay, and the right to ask the Commons to think again, and no power over finance.”

Lord Steel is also expected to deliver critical comments about former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s “inadequate” attempts to reform the House of Lords during the coalition government.

He will say: “Nick Clegg had many virtues but two damning vices – over weening ambition from an early age, and a woeful lack of knowledge of history, especially that of his own party.”

The former MP and MSP retired from the House of Lords and quit the Liberal Democrats earlier this year in the wake of a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The IICSA report told how the political establishment spent decades turning “a blind eye” to allegations of child sexual abuse and cited his failure to act on allegations about Sir Cyril Smith.

The former Holyrood presiding officer said that with the IICSA “not having secured a parliamentary scalp, I fear that I have been made a proxy for Cyril Smith”.

Following the report’s publication, Lord Steel said his Liberal colleague “did not admit to me the truth of the allegations” and added: “Knowing all I know now, I condemn Cyril Smith’s actions towards children.”

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