House of Lords 'could move to York or Birmingham' – Tory chairman

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The government is examining whether to move the House of Lords out of London, the Conservative Party chairman has said.

James Cleverly told Sky News the idea was among a “range of options” being considered to “reconnect” politics with voters outside the capital.

According to the Sunday Times, York and Birmingham have emerged as contenders to permanently host the upper chamber.

But Labour MP Nadia Whittome described the idea as “superficial”.

According to the newspaper, a decision on whether to relocate the chamber will be determined as part of a constitutional review being launched in the spring.

It reported that disused land near York railway station has been identified as a possible site to host the chamber, which houses 795 peers.

The House of Lords is already due to temporarily relocate out of the Palace of Westminster as part of refurbishment plans due to begin in around 2025.

Asked to comment on the proposals in the Sunday Times report, Mr Cleverly told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “It’s one of a range of things that we are looking into.

“What we are looking at is a whole range of options about making sure every part of the UK feels properly connected to politics,” he added.

“Fundamentally what this is about is demonstrating to the people that we are going to do things differently.”

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Analysis by Peter Saull, BBC political reporter

For many reasons, ‘The Lords of the North,’ as some are calling it, appears far-fetched.

However, the fact that it is being considered at all highlights the government’s desire to address a perceived disconnect between politicians and voters.

The subject has also featured heavily in the Labour leadership contest, with several of the candidates calling for our democracy to be far less London-centric.

Large swathes of the Midlands and the north of England turned Conservative in the election – and the government wants to bring Westminster closer to the voters it represents; perhaps literally.

Whether or not it actually comes to pass, the idea of moving the second chamber north fits in nicely with Downing Street’s “levelling up” agenda.

Sending peers to work hundreds of miles away from MPs would, though, present logistical as well as constitutional challenges.

What would happen, for example, on the day of the Queen’s Speech? Would Her Majesty have to travel to York?

Would Black Rod take a train to London, only to have the door of the Commons ceremonially slammed in her face? Would MPs go on a coach trip up the M1 to hear the government’s plans?

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said he was not involved in discussions about a Lords relocation but was “supportive” of the idea.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “As a principle it’s a perfectly good thing that we are connecting government to all parts of the country.

“I think it’s absolutely right that if you want to be a government of the people, you must reach out to people across the country.”

But Nadia Whittome, the newly-elected MP for Nottingham East, told the programme: “Working class people whether in the North, the Midlands or the South don’t care about the unelected House of Lords.”

“We want jobs, we want proper investment and meaningful decentralisation of power,” she said.

“Replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber and move it to the North and then we’re talking – but this is superficial, it’s tinkering around the edges.”