Prime Minister sends team to scout for House of Lords locations in York

3 Feb 2020 @ 8.04 am
| Politics

Many responded to the idea that the House of Lords could be relocated to York by suggesting it was just the Prime Minister’s whim.

But evidence that Boris Johnson was serious about the proposal came with a fact-finding visit to York by a top team of his aides.

A group led by Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, Sir Eddie Lister, visited the city on Friday (31 January) to scout out potential locations.

Sir Eddie was joined by Cabinet Office officials.

But they didn’t meet with any one from City of York Council. A spokesman said: “The council didn’t meet Sir Eddie Lister and Cabinet Office officials on this occasion.”

Properly connected

Boris Johnson’s chief of staff Sir Eddie Lister. Photograph: EG Focus on Flickr
According to the Sunday Times, which broke the story about a potential Lords move on 19 January, the government had already earmarked York Central as a possible venue.

That report stated: “Disused government-owned land close to York railway station has already been identified as a prime site to build a new second chamber.”

The idea of relocating the Lords to York has ruffled some feathers in Westminster with many members – including the next Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell – being either sceptical or openly hostile.

The House of Lords debates Brexit in October 2019. Photograph © House of Lords 2019 / Photography by Roger Harris

Senior Conservatives have said they are looking at a range of options to ensure “every part of the UK feels properly connected from politics”.

The government is to launch a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission. Labour leader in the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon said that commission “will have to look at ways to restore trust” in democracy.

She said:

  • Government briefings have already provoked some interest, whether it’s been about political appointments to challenge the independence of the judiciary or shallow comments about moving this House to York…

    What would really make the difference is genuinely understanding and tackling the serious issues that impact on society, from homelessness to the climate emergency, if we are serious about restoring trust in the whole political system.