Tuesday 21 January 2020 6:01 am

DEBATE: Should the government move the House of Lords to York?

and John Oxley
John Oxley is a Conservative commentator

Should the government move the House of Lords to York?

Alastair Benn, news editor of Reaction, says YES.

The British state is now more centralised than it has been for many decades. In large part, we owe that to Margaret Thatcher, who tended to treat the UK’s constituent parts as regions, rather than as distinct polities with their own political traditions, and flattened out networks of local patronage.

Moving the House of Lords to York would be a welcome correction to that London-centric development, and follows logically from the introduction of metro mayors across England and Wales under the coalition government.

But if Boris Johnson is serious about rebalancing the UK and moving the centre of gravity away from London, he should go further and abolish the House of Lords in its current form, reshaping it into a second chamber with representatives of all the regions and constituent nations of the UK. Westminster would then become the seat of a newly-badged English parliament.

A federalist option would diffuse the notion that Brexit is a Westminster power grab, and portray it rather as the beginning of a fruitful reimagining of how the UK can fit together in harmony.

John Oxley, a Conservative commentator, says NO.

Our parliamentary system is built on the two chambers being proximate both to each other and to the other organs of government. Taking the House of Lords away from the Commons, the civil service, and the executive would frustrate and dilute it.

It is hard to see how important parliamentary institutions like Joint Committees could function with The Other Place 200 miles up the east coast.

Nor does a new home necessarily mean a new outlook. Still largely drawn from London elites, peers are unlikely to see much more of Yorkshire than the railway station and the Grand Hotel. Expenses claims would balloon, not to mention the duplication of costs like security and staffing, all for little gain if the aim is regional rebalance.

God’s Own Country came up with everything from stainless steel to sparkling water without a parliamentary chamber in its boundaries. Unelected ermine wearers won’t make it better, and could instead draw resources away from the local private sector.

Encourage businesses to move to York instead, and keep Yorkshire peerless.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.