Conservative ex-ministers to get peerages
Downing Street has nominated nine new Conservative peers, including a number of former ministers, to sit in the House of Lords.
Among those put forward for a peerage are former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles and former trade and industry secretary Peter Lilley.
The move follows a series of government defeats in the Lords, where Theresa May does not have a majority, over Brexit.
The Democratic Unionists will get one new peer while Labour will get three.
The Lib Dems, which have more than 100 peers in the unelected chamber, said it was a “desperate bid” by Theresa May to quell opposition to her Brexit policy.
The full list of Conservative nominations is:
- Sir Eric Pickles, former communities secretary
- Peter Lilley, former trade and industry secretary
- Sir Edward Garnier, former solicitor general
- Sir Alan Haselhurst, former deputy Commons speaker
- John Randall, former deputy chief whip
- Andrew Tyrie, former Commons Treasury committee chairman
- Amanda Sater, former deputy chair of the Conservative Party
- Catherine Meyer, founder and chief executive of Action Against Abduction
- Diana Barran, founder and chief executive of Safe Lives
All six of the MPs on the list stood down at the 2015 and 2017 general elections. Of the former MPs nominated, Mr Lilley is the only prominent Brexiteer.
The government has suffered 15 defeats in the Lords during the passage of its flagship EU Withdrawal Bill, by majorities ranging from about 30 votes to more than 100.
Peers have snubbed Theresa May by calling for negotiations on remaining within a customs union with the EU and staying within the European Economic Area.
They could be asked to vote on these issues again if their amendments to the Bill are overturned by MPs.
Other crucial Brexit legislation, relating to subjects such as trade and immigration, has yet to be considered by Parliament.
At the moment, 244 of the 780 peers in the House of Lords take the Conservative whip, more than any other party but well short of the number required to give the government a majority.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has nominated the party’s former longstanding general secretary Iain McNicol, veteran campaigner and ex-councillor Martha Osamor – whose daughter Kate is a member of the shadow cabinet – and socialist author and activist Pauline Bryan.
The list, which has to be approved by the Queen, is completed by former DUP MP Dr William McCrea, a Free Presbyterian minister who was MP for Mid Ulster between 1983 and 1997 and for South Antrim between 2000 and 2015.
Friday’s appointments have to be vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission although the body does not have the powers to reject individuals.
Sir Eric, a former leader of Bradford Council who served as MP for Brentwood and Ongar for 25 years and in the cabinet for five years, tweeted that he was “looking forward to returning to Westminster”.
Lord Newby, the leader of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords, said it was a “cynical response” from the PM to losing a string of votes in recent weeks. “The PM is running scared of the mounting criticism of her disastrous handling of Brexit,” he said.
The PM has faced calls to limit the number of new peers she appoints amid anger at the size of the unelected chamber, which has 130 more members than the Commons.
Lord Fowler, the former Conservative cabinet minister who is now Lords Speaker, said he welcomed the PM’s “restraint” in keeping numbers down – pointing out that 35 peers had either retired or died since the 2017 general election.
“The size of the House is falling, and our aim is to continue that progress,” he said. “The relatively modest size of today’s list when compared with those under several previous prime ministers has demonstrated a welcome commitment to that pledge.”