Britain’s unelected Lords are signing up to speak in huge numbers. Here’s why

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 23rd July 2020

Members of the House of Lords have been signing up in record numbers to contribute remotely, according to a report in Private Eye. Why?

The magazine reports that, during the pandemic, peers currently only get their daily allowance if they speak or vote in virtual debates – leading to ‘madly over-subscribed debates’ in order to claim the (reduced) £160 daily tax-free fee.

The current situation means so many have signed up that contributions have often been cut short – sometimes to just a couple of minutes each.

One Lord told the Eye: “We might be in the bath, or in the middle of supper, or asleep, but if we don’t press the [voting] button one way or another we won’t get our 160 quid.”

This suits the government very well – with many peers simply voting on party lines and failing to do the proper scrutiny work they’re meant to do, according to the magazine.

While many peers do work hard, some are simply voting on party lines to get their fee.  It’s a shoddy state of affairs for our supposed ‘independent’ chamber – and by no means a recent problem.

When Lords did  try and rebel recently over a government policy, ministers simply closed down the debate.

In ‘normal’ times, the 800 unelected appointees don’t even have to prove they’ve contributed at all in order to claim their £323 a-day expenses – also a pretty rotten set-up.

Is this the best we can expect from our ‘scrutiny’ chamber? It’s time for a revising house that has real clout, transparency, and accountability – rather than one that simply facilitates people gaming the system.

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