House of Lords plan will fail to arrive on time

by samalhamdani on 20 January, 2020

Within 24 hours of each other, we have heard the Conservative Government plans to move the House of Lords to York, and that the HS2 line is even further over budget and is now going to be delayed for another six months.

The first of those, the House of Lords plan, is a half-baked idea that both fails to address the problems of our democracy, will cost a fortune, and achieves very little. It also brings huge practical problems – how will the second chamber function hundreds of miles away from not only the House of Commons, but also the civil service that supports it?

There is a strong argument for moving the national Government away from London – many other countries have a separate commercial and administrative centres.

But that is not what is being done here.

We need better democratic oversight of our Government. That means an elected second chamber that works to scrutinise the Government of the day, rather than competing with it for authority. Moving a second chamber in the north simply means that a “democratic” institution full of people given their place as a reward by the Government of the day will continue to be undemocratic in a new location, further away from the body which it seeks to scrutinise.

Meanwhile, the failings of the HS2 project simply highlight the inability of the Government to deliver large scale projects on time and on budget. Given that HS2 is intended to benefit the north, the fact that only the southern section seems likely to be completed shows the blinkered thinking and London-centric nature of the current Government – and moving the second Chamber north won’t address that. Only giving the regions genuine decision-making powers will, whether that be through moving the whole of parliament, or by devolving powers to the regions that are affected by them.

Even more than that, it highlights the failure of transport infrastructure across the north of England. As current and past Governments have failed to invest what is needed, we have ended up with a failing Northern Rail service, which must lose its franchise. Moving the House of Lords to York simply highlights the appalling lack of joined up transport thinking – it is quicker to go by train from Lancaster to London (210 miles) than Lancaster to York (70 miles).

Government’s need to be responsible, to be far-sighted, to be ambitious. It feels like the current Conservative Government is throwing out any old ideas in an attempt to feel fresh and new.

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