Steel sounds out SNP in call for Lords shake-up

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, who lives in Selkirk, said the need for an overhaul has been made more urgent by the scandal surrounding Lord Sewel and moves by Prime Minister David Cameron to send more Tory peers to the second chamber.

And he believes that if his private member’s bill, which included the right to expel peers, had not been passed last year, then Lord Sewel, recently filmed apparently using cocaine in the company of prostitutes, would have been entitled to retain his seat.

In a speech delivered 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 very good position to argue concretely for its reform,” he said.

“I wish they would take some seats there. That 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”, adding: “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.

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