HENRY DEEDES on peers facing a trip up North to collect their £300 fee

He grinned tightly, as if a pipette of vinegar had been squirted down his gullet: HENRY DEEDES on peers facing a trip up North to collect their £300 daily fee

The Upper House was a bubbling cauldron of indignation. 

Our noble Lords were miffed, irked. Their mighty chateau-snorting conks had been knocked firmly out of joint.

The subject of their discomfiture was a story in the Sunday papers that claimed the Government was considering moving the chamber to York, meaning a long schlep oop North each day to collect their £300 appearance fee.

Angry scowls dotted the red benches. Not since sticky toffee pudding was temporarily removed from the peers’ dining room has the old place been so irate.

Lord Foulkes (above) demanded to know how moving the Lords could be reconciled with the billions currently being spent on it as part of Parliament’s refurbishment

The matter was raised straight after urgent questions by Lord Foulkes (Lab). 

Combative Foulkes, a former minister under Tony Blair, is a fiery Scot, the sort who could start a fight in a convent. 

He’s also the possessor of the most glorious hooter. Each time he spoke it seemed to glow with rage.

Foulkes demanded to know how moving the Lords could be reconciled with the billions currently being spent on it as part of Parliament’s refurbishment.

It had fallen to the Lords’ genial deputy leader Earl Howe to respond as best he could, murmuring something about the move still being under review.

Poor fellow appeared to be as much in the dark about the Government’s proposals as any of them.


Lord Wallace, left, brought attention to the fact that the Sunday Times was briefed it would take peers three hours to travel between York station and King’s Cross. A heavy dose of sarcasm soon gripped proceedings. Lord Kirkhope, right, demanded the Commons should also be moved –‘perhaps to Edinburgh or Glasgow’, he suggested unhelpfully

The subject of their discomfiture was a story in the Sunday papers that claimed the Government was considering moving the chamber to York, meaning a long schlep oop North each day to collect their £300 appearance fee. The city’s York Minister is pictured above

Around the chamber there was a sense of nervy detachment. Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Campbell grinned tightly, as if someone had just squirted a pipette of vinegar down his gullet.

Baroness Shackleton, that feared divorce litigator, crossed her arms huffily. Clearly she had not taken ermine to go carting up the M1.

Lord Wallace brought attention to the fact that the Sunday Times was briefed it would take peers three hours to travel between York station and King’s Cross.

Wallace had himself travelled back from York recently and the journey had taken only two hours. 

Cast-iron proof, he lisped in the triumphant tones of Horace Rumpole, that the Government had not thought this proposal through properly.

Howe replied, not very convincingly, that all logisticial aspects would be looked into.

It had fallen to the Lords’ genial deputy leader Earl Howe to respond as best he could, murmuring something about the move still being under review. Poor fellow appeared to be as much in the dark about the Government’s proposals as any of them

Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith, suggested the story smacked of a wheeze cooked up by a No 10 policy unit desperate for newspaper headlines, adding that the Prime Minister was clearly ‘as worried about Lords scrutiny as he is about Andrew Neil’ – a reference to the PM’s refusal to be interviewed by the BBC’s rottweiller during the election.

A heavy dose of sarcasm soon gripped proceedings. Lord Kirkhope (Con) demanded the Commons should also be moved –‘perhaps to Edinburgh or Glasgow’, he suggested unhelpfully.

TV scientist Lord Winston (Lab), whose famous Merv Hughes moustache twitched and bristled with irritation, reckoned the idea had all the makings of a Government shambles.

Lord Forsyth (Con) pithily pointed out that all those people in the North who surprisingly voted for the Government had not done so because they wanted more politicians in the area.

They wanted ‘things that actually matter’ he said, such as healthcare. Ah, NHS spending. That unbeatable trump card.

There was much merriment when stately Lord West (Lab), silken handkerchief drooping from his breast pocket, rose on his high hooves.

The retired admiral suggested that, as ours is a proud maritime nation, perhaps instead of decamping peers to York, No 10 could base them in an old Cunard ship that sailed around the country.

The chamber reverberated to the sound of raucous chortling. Howe, perhaps not entirely seriously, thought this an imaginative idea and worth the Government’s consideration.

The House of Lords won’t really be moved, of course. But what a hoot to see the old stiffs so rattled.

Around the chamber there was a sense of nervy detachment. Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Campbell grinned tightly, as if someone had just squirted a pipette of vinegar down his gullet [File photo]

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