Costly cronies of the House of Lords

24 Aug 2015

In our new report, House of Lords Fact vs Fiction, we took a look at some of the enduring myths that surround our unelected second chamber. 

Peers are technically unpaid, but unlike the thousands of people around the country who volunteer in their local communities each week, members of the House of Lords effectively get to pick how much they get in allowances. Just for checking in, Peers can claim either £150 or £300 tax-free depending on how much they feel they deserve. On top of this they can claim expenses for limited travel costs.

Between February 2014 to January 2015, £21 million was spent on handouts to members of the House of Lords, with the average Peer receiving £25,826 tax-free – despite the chamber only sitting for about 130 days of the year.  For the same cost as 780 part-time peers we could have 300 democratically-elected and accountable peers on an MP’s salary.

Whilst many Lords will put in a full day’s work for this money, there is nothing to stop a Peer coming to London for the day, popping in to the Lords bar for a (subsidised) sherry, before claiming their travel and £300 for a night at the theatre.

Is this happening? As Lords don’t have to justify their claims it’s hard to tell, but we know that in the 2010-2015 parliament, £360,000 was claimed by 62 Peers for years in which they did not vote once.  In the last session of parliament alone, over £100,000 was claimed by Peers who did not vote at all – and research we’re releasing this week in the Daily Mirror will show that thousands is also claimed by Peers who fail to speak on the floor of the House, too.

Of course the cost of running the House of Lords isn’t just their allowances – there’s all the other infrastructure costs too. The net operating costs of the House of Lords in 2013-4 were £93.1m, approximately equivalent to £118k per Peer.

So whilst on the basis of allowances and expenses, an additional 100 Peers would cost almost £2.6m, this is likely an underestimate of their true costs. Firstly, new Peers tend to be younger and more frequent attendees, meaning they will be higher allowance claimants. Secondly, these figures do not include office costs, including the extra staffing, food, admin and Parliamentary staff costs associated with having extra Peers.

According to David Cameron, the rationale for reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 was to ‘cut the cost of politics’. But the design of the House of Lords – with Prime Ministers facing an incentive to pack it full of cronies and secure a majority there - means the costs of patronage in our unelected chamber will only ever increase.

Illustration by David Biskup


12 Responses to Costly cronies of the House of Lords


I think the House of Lords should be Converted into a Youth Parliament

Ilona Williams 3 Nov 2015

Why do we need House of Lords. It only costs us a lot of money with any return. I suggest we change it into a Youth Parliament so our young people get a say! 

John 3 Nov 2015

Replace with a house that is randomly selected from the population (like we select juries).

This means we'll end up with people who didn't get there due to money, climbing the greasy pole, having friends in high places, etc. It will mean having the odd criminal, homeless person, single parent in the same proportion as the UK population.

We pay them a good enough salary that they won't worry about giving up their job for 5 years (preferably hold the old job in the same way as maternity leave). If they really can't do it (like a jury) we take another random person. 1 per constituency or randomly select from anywhere in the country.

Same powers as current lords - review, amend and send back to commons.

No need to go to Westminister it can be done online with teleconferencing = cheaper and doesn't rule out those that can't travel (eg severely disabled).

No way for business or commons to rig the membership.

Make it illegal to receive money (but not information) from ANY interest groups.

Paul O'Sullivan 4 Nov 2015

Love the idea of a randomly selected house and I agree that while no system is perfect this is a reasonable way to deal with some of the inequalities of the current system. Unfortunately the people who will decide what system replaces the house of Lords are exactly the people who wod lose the most by implementing such a system. As such I cannot see it happening.

Brian T 4 Nov 2015

It's almost repusive to encourage an invertebrate establishment which is only in place due to cronyism.Noting that these parasites are only there for teir own ends.
The House should simply be disbanded & the money saved to go to the NHS to subsidise those other CEO parasites/Cronies who somehow earn more money than the Prime Minister?
And they attain this salary for being complete failures.
This country stinks through it's cronies and due to the Establishment,will never change.

byron grainger-Jones 4 Nov 2015

The whole panoply of the House of Lords is absurd, ineffective and inefficient - and hugely expensive. At over 800 members, our House of Lords is the second largest upper chamber in the world, lesser only in size to that in the People's Republic of China!
Given that scrutiny of draft legislation is the prime raison d'etre of the Upper Chamber, I suggest that about 100 members would be sufficient. Members of this modified upper chamber would be elected, using the same boundaries as for MEPs (i.e. for Regions of the UK).
The revised upper chamber would be allocated additional duties, in addition to legislation-scrutiny. It may for example, adopt some Regional responsibilities, in conjunction with MEPs - subject of course to the UK retaining its current EU membership!
Byron Grainger-Jones

Roger 4 Nov 2015

To some extent worrying about the House of Lords is rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
The real elephant in the room is surely the  "Not fit for purpose" electoral system which gave us a Tory government for another five years that was actually elected by less than a quarter of the electorate, whereas millions of voters wanting something different saw just one Green MP.
Let's change the whole electoral system, not just tinker at the edges.

Paul Kennedy 10 Dec 2015

Hi All,
With regards to the necessary reform of the so-called `Upper House`, perhaps that can be fully discussed and addressed, when the current head of state for the U.K, Queen Elizabeth, finally steps off this mortal coil, and opens up a real debate regarding the future `Upper Representation` of our Nation, be at the engaged consideration of the citizens of this Country...
The idea of being born into a priveleged position and thereby giving you an automatic say into the Governance of the Country is preposterous in the 21st Century...Even though it is currently not in one of the World`s `beacons` of democracy.
Many thanks.

B J Brimson 9 Feb 2017

If the house of lords were disbanded the money could fund the NHS and the elderly.The house of lords is like a parasite taking money away from those who need it more . There should be a referendum, we have a body of men and women elected to run the country why on earth do we need people at all.

D Nicoli 19 Feb 2017

House of Lords should be disbanded. The country cannot afford to give these pensioners something to do.  They are all wealthy and do not need the taxpayers money. If they are bored then they can create their own society and pay for it themselves.  if a balance is needed against parliament then restrict it to people without criminal records. Anyone in receipt of a pension cannot receive any payment or perks for being there. The party system within the Lords should be absolutely balanced politically.

Robert Craddock 9 Mar 2017

What entitles the attendance allowance to be tax exempt when it can be classed as an income. When as we all know the lord's are already self efficient.
It is an insult to us all who are struggling.

Mike Hosking 13 Mar 2017

The HoL is an affront to democracy but it will never ever change because Turkeys don't vote for Christmas - just look at Prezza that bastion of justice for the working classes.

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