Revealed: Secret plan to pack Lords with Tory loyalists

A key advisor to Boris Johnson outlined a plan to create almost 40 new Conservative peers to speed new laws through Parliament. Political Editor Robert Peston reports.

A plan to create 39 new Tory-supporting lords as a matter of urgency, to push through contentious legislation, has been proposed by the most influential political lobby group that advises the prime minister, Boris Johnson.

"Project Homer", a confidential document drafted by Sir Lynton Crosby's C|T Group and seen by ITV News, says that if there had been around 40 additional committed Tory supporters in the Lords, Boris Johnson would have avoided more than half of the defeats he suffered in the second chamber since becoming prime minister.

C|T also proposes what it calls professionalisation of the Tories' operation in the Lords.

It says the loyalty of individual peers could be rewarded by giving them CBEs for political service, making them special envoys or advisors to the prime minister, and giving them lunches and dinners at Chequers, the PM's country residence.

It devises a strategy to prevent too much criticism of what many would see as an anti-democratic ploy by proposing that many of the new peers come from under-represented parts of the country, such as the north and midlands.

It also says that if the list were to contain controversial candidates such as Paul Dacre, editor in chief of the business that owns the Daily Mail, the media and critics would concentrate their outrage on him, rather than looking too hard at the bigger picture.

Paul Dacre. Credit: PA

It cites the outcry over the appointment to the lords of Evgeny Lebedev, son of a former KGB spy and Russian oligarch, by way of evidence.

In the parlance, this ploy of distracting from the more important story is known as a "dead cat".

It criticises the current leader of the Lords, Baroness Evans, claiming poor political management, and says previous Tory appointees have been poorly vetted, naming the former MP Andrew Tyrie, the former adviser to David Cameron, Camilla Cavendish, and the ex-newspaper editor Patience Wheatcroft.

The C|T paper expresses concern that important and divisive new pieces of legislation, the Brexit Freedoms Bill and the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, would be frustrated and defeated in the absence of more Tory lords.

A timetable is suggested for creating the peers later this year and calculates 39 would be needed - because almost two thirds of government defeats in recent years were by fewer than 50 votes.

The creation of 20 peers of a single party at any one time is regarded as a large number. There is no recent precedent for 39 being appointed.

Boris Johnson, who is stepping down as prime minister on 5 September following the mass resignation of his ministers, has already over-ridden normal practice when appointing lords.

He put the Tory donor and former party treasurer Peter Cruddas in the Lords against the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, which vets all nominees for whether they are fit and proper.

Sir Lynton has been a long-standing adviser to Boris Johnson, as well as to other Tory prime ministers. One of the senior executives at C|T David Canzini currently works in No10 as Johnson’s deputy chief of staff.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “This is not a government document and does not represent government policy. Unsolicited advice is often received - and disregarded.”

A spokesperson for C|T said: "The document you refer to was simply an early working copy of a discussion paper prepared for a think tank.

"It was not circulated outside of a small group of individuals and was not prepared for any audience outside of that small group of people, to aid discussion.

"Even in spite of this being simply a working draft of a discussion paper, it seems incongruous that ITV would be against making the House of Lords more representative of the UK people with under-representation of the north and Wales, as you state, or that those who accept peerages do so in the full knowledge and acceptance that they will commit fully and actively to their democratic role, and have no conflicts which would prevent them from doing so."

What is the House of Lords?

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament and is independent from the House of Commons, where elected MPs debate the merits of new bills becoming law.

The House of Lords. Credit: PA

While MPs are chosen by their constituents, Lords – also known as peers – can be suggested by the public or political parties but are ultimately approved by the prime minister.

Often criticised for being undemocratic, members of the House of Lords cannot be voted out and can hold their position for life, if they wish to.

There are currently 767 members of the House of Lords but they are not obliged to attend session and can claim expenses.

Bills that pass through the Commons – where MPs held accountable by the public debate and scrutinise potential new legislature – must then be approved by the House of Lords before it can be made into law.

Critics argue so many unelected and unaccountable members should not have the power to approve or override laws.