The House of Lords will be “playing with fire” if it tries to frustrate the Brexit legislation going through parliament, a former Chancellor has said.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick, who sits as a Conservative peer, said he was a supporter of the existence of the Upper Chamber, but warned its future would be at risk if it tried to hold up legislation giving Theresa May the power formally begin Brexit.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, the former Chancellor said: “I hope the amendments will be roundly defeated in the House of Lords and I think they are playing with fire if they want the House of Lords to survive.
“I don’t think it will deserve to survive if they wreck this Bill.”
Lord Lamont, who was Chancellor during the infamous “Black Wednesday” of 1992 when George Soros caused the value of the pound to collapse by short selling the currency, said that although he supports the House of Lords as it is, it would be “untenable” if it delayed Brexit.
“We had one majority [in the House of Commons] of 384 and one of 372 – by the standards of history these are massive majorities that is something the House of Lords has to take into account.
“So there is no excuse for this. Amending a Bill of two clauses and 150 words is really I think a little ridiculous – they are not really amendments, they are trying to attach conditions to the negotiations.”
No party holds a majority in the House of Lords, and there is a genuine chance the government could be defeated over the rights of EU nationals living in Britain, with peers also adding a clause committing the government to holding another vote on the final deal.
The Liberal Democrats, who have over 100 seats in the upper chamber despite having fewer than 10 MPs in the House of Commons, have pledged to amend the bill, with numerous independent Crossbenchers likely to join them.
Lord Newby, who leads the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, told Sky News on Sunday: “We have a job. If we have any job in the House of Lords it’s to amend things if we think the Government has got it wrong and to ask the Government to think again.”