Steel sounds out SNP in call for Lords shake-up

Lord David Steel.
Lord David Steel.

Former Borders MP and Liberal Party leader Lord Steel of Aikwood has stepped up calls for sweeping reforms of the House of Lords.

Created a Lib Dem life peer in 1997, the 77-year-old said the need for an overhaul has been made more urgent by the Lord Sewel scandal and moves by Prime Minister David Cameron to send more Tory peers to the second chamber.

He believes that if his private members bill, which included the right to expel members, had not been passed, then Lord Sewel, recently filmed apparently using cocaine in the company of prostitutes, would have been entitled to retain his seat.

In a speech in Northern Ireland, Lord Steel said he believed members of the SNP supported his proposal for an elected senate of 500 members, including 40 from Scotland.

“The problem for the SNP is because they are not part of the Lords, they are not in a good position to argue for its reform,” he said.“I wish they would take some seats there . It would make sense provided they made clear they were only doing so in order to promote reform. The case for reform has grown more urgent and will resurrect itself any moment now when a new tranche of peers is announced which makes the whole size of the place just ridiculous.”

An SNP spokesman described the House of Lords as an “embarrassing anachronism”

“The SNP has made clear the only answer is abolition of the whole chamber and the creation of a fit-for-purpose elected chamber free of the absurd pomp and ceremony which people in Scotland find ridiculous,” he said.

“The Lib Dems spent five years in government and failed to deliver any real reform…action is needed and it is needed now.”