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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has promised "the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people" if elected.

Labour published a report on Monday by former prime minister Gordon Brown setting out plans for sweeping constitutional change, including abolishing the House of Lords.

The plans would release £200m a year and change the economy, Sir Keir said.

He called the reforms an end to short-term "sticking plaster politics".

Sir Keir told BBC Breakfast the unelected second chamber was "indefensible", and added that a Labour government would abolish it and replace it with an elected body "with a strong mission" - but did not provide an exact timeframe.

"I'm very keen that all of the recommendations in the report are carried out as quickly as possible," he said, adding the proposals could be implemented within five years of a Labour administration.

Labour would abolish the House of Lords
Follow live: Starmer to set out plans for 'A New Britain'
The report, entitled A New Britain, put forward 40 recommendations, including proposals for handing new economic powers to English mayors, local authorities and devolved governments.

Sir Keir said he commissioned the report "because I profoundly think that the fact we hold too much power in Whitehall is holding us back, not only politically - with people feeling more distant form politics - but economically".

"Amongst the reasons we have failed to grow our economy in the last 12 years is we're not allowing every part of the UK to play its part economically," he told the BBC.

Keir Starmer is making a big pledge: a massive transfer of power away from London to the rest of the UK.

Is it the biggest priority facing the country? Not everyone will think so. But Labour is adamant it is a way of making sure better decisions are made that work for local people in different parts of the UK.

Gordon Brown has been working on this report for two years. It's a chunky read and there is a lot in there.

At the moment though, Labour isn't endorsing everything. It's a direction of travel, Sir Keir says, but he wants to now go away and discuss the detail and a timetable.

Will it actually happen? Scrapping the Lords has been on Labour's agenda for quite some time. Some are sceptical it is the best use of time for a new Labour Govt, if there is one.

But the hope in the Labour party is this starts a process that will end in a rewiring of the UK's political system.

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The report argues the "continuing over-concentration of power in Westminster and Whitehall is undermining our ability to deliver growth and prosperity for the whole country", creating a "vicious circle".

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One of its most eye-catching recommendations is the proposal to scrap the Lords, but other recommendations include:

Transfer 50,000 jobs from Whitehall to outside London
Banning the vast majority of second jobs for MPs and eliminating foreign money from UK politics
Setting up a new anti-corruption commissioner "to root out criminal behaviour in British political life where it occurs"
Give local authorities new fiscal powers to raise revenue
Create a legal requirement that decisions must be taken as close as possible to the local community
Include Scottish Parliament in international agreements involving Scottish areas
Establishing hundreds of regional clusters of innovation
Create new directly elected mayors in Scotland
The government is "doing a great deal to devolve power to local areas" and has relocated "thousands of jobs", the prime minister's official spokesperson said.

Responding to Labours plans to restrict second jobs for MPs, the prime minister's spokesman said "outside interests and experience outside Westminster can bring benefits".

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The size and role of the Lords has come under scrutiny in recent years, amid warnings that unelected membership has grown excessive, with about 800 sitting members.

The Observer reported last month that Sir Keir told Labour peers part of the argument for reform was the public having "lost faith in the ability of politicians and politics to bring about change".

However, Labour peer Lord Mandelson warned that, without agreement from other parties, Labour's plans risked dragging the party into a "quagmire of disagreement".

"It's going to soak up acres of time and energy, which, frankly, a Labour government would be better devoting to other priorities and other needs in the country," he told BBC Newsnight.

"Don't imagine that you're going to be able to pull it off simply by the Labour Party agreeing with itself and imposing some outcome on everyone else."

Director of the Institute for Government, Dr Hannah White, said the plans were "certainly ambitious".

"It would require the House of Lords to agree to itself being abolished or at least significantly reformed," she said.

"We have had multiple efforts in the past to reform the House of Lords in the past which have fallen foul of the politics, which have failed to achieve consensus."

Speaking to Times Radio, Conservative peer Lord Norton argued the Lords should remain unelected and urged caution over "Big Bang reform".

He said the "detailed legislative scrutiny" done by the Lords "improves the law of this country".

Former Cabinet minister, Tory MP Simon Clarke criticised the move, saying: "Anyone who has looked at the institutionalised gridlock in US politics can see the utter stupidity it would be to create an elected upper house."

But Labour sources insist the party remains committed to abolishing the Lords.

The party will consult on the report's proposals and the timeframe in which they can be delivered before deciding whether to put them in its next election manifesto.

One Labour source said "everything in our manifesto we will seek to deliver in a parliamentary term".

The report comes as Labour enjoys a handsome lead in the polls over the Conservatives, who lost a by-election in Chester by a large margin this week.

link: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-63851922

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