PM set to nominate 10 Tory peers in attempt to overcome Brexit defeats

Labour peer Lord Adonis criticises plan as desperate attempt by May to boost fragile position in upper chamber

Theresa May is expected to approve the creation of about 10 Tory peers and hand at least one to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party in an attempt to improve her weak position in the House of Lords, which has already voted 15 times against her government over Brexit.

The elevations, which are expected to be announced in the coming days in Westminster, were immediately criticised by high profile remain Labour peer Lord Adonis as a desperate attempt by the prime minister to enlist people to boost her fragile position in the unelected upper house.

Tories tipped for elevation include former ministers Sir Eric Pickles and Peter Lilley. Adonis said: “This is a classic example of packing the Lords to try and make Brexit easier to endorse.”

Constitutionally, there is supposed to be a rough balance between the two main parties in the Lords, although at present there are 244 Conservative peers, including 49 hereditary peers, and 187 Labour peers. However, the Conservatives are far from a majority in a chamber that has a total of 780 members and has become the principal parliamentary opposition to Brexit.

That has meant that May’s government has been repeatedly defeated over the EU withdrawal bill, with peers inflicting 15 defeats on issues such as the customs union, the Irish border and removing the precise date of Brexit – 29 March 2019 – from the legislation.

Labour is expected to add three peers to its total representation, with the former party general secretary Iain McNicol and Martha Osamor, a race equality campaigner and the mother of MP Kate Osamor, heavily tipped to be ennobled.

That prompted a complaint from Adonis, who said it effectively validated the creation of new peers at such a sensitive time. “I’m very surprised that the Labour party is playing this game by agreeing to make a small number of peers because it legitimises the actions of the Tories.”

Other Tories who have been tipped for ennoblement include former MPs Andrew Tyrie, Sir Edward Garnier and Julian Brazier.

Party political peers are periodically created when No 10 indicates that it wishes to do so, although this round had been delayed for months. In February, May said she wanted to end the “automatic entitlement” to a peerage for holders of high office in an attempt to reduce numbers in the upper house to 600.

Former DUP MP William McCrea is expected to be ennobled, taking the Northern Irish party, which props up May’s government in the Commons, from three to four peers. Sources said the party had indicated that it also had been handed the right to make a second nomination.

One name believed to be under consideration is Diane Dodds, a DUP MEP who is married to the party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds. However, a senior DUP source dismissed speculation about Dodds as “complete nonsense”, indicating she was too young to be in the House of Lords.

The Liberal Democrats, who have 98 peers in the Lords, are not expected to add to their number.

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