Elect the House of Lords

From stories of peers leaving taxis running to claim their expenses to failing to turn up for years at a time, the Lords makes a mockery of our democracy.

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For far too many of its members, the second chamber of our parliament is a cosy club for the privileged few.

But this is not just another private members’ club – it is one which has real powers over the law of the land.

We’re basically alone in Europe for having a fully-unelected revising chamber. And no other country in the democratic world has a second chamber bigger than ours. Globally, only Communist China has a bigger body, and they merely meet to rubber stamp government policies. France manages on 348 members. Spain with 265. India, with over a billion people, and Japan have just 245 members each.

It’s time to abolish the bloated House of Lords and create a new chamber to revise our legislation – one where the public picks the members, and can hold them accountable.

How much does the House of Lords cost?

It seems the only time the public is allowed into the House of Lords is to pay the bill.

The House of Lords isn’t just an affront to voters, it’s an unacceptable burden on the public purse.

Peers are able to claim £323 a day tax-free each day they attend, plus some travel costs. Between April 2019 and March 2020, £17.7 million was spent on Lords allowances and expenses, with the average peer claiming £30,687.

A smaller, fairly elected second chamber would be better for tax-payers.

Decentralising power

In 2022, the House of Lords is dominated by London, the South East and East of England, with a majority of peers (55%) for whom we have a place of residence living in these three regions (more than 250 peers refuse to state the area they live in). By contrast, peers in the East and West Midlands make up just over six percent between them – leaving many areas of the UK woefully underrepresented.

Abolishing the outdated and unrepresentative House of Lords offers a chance to rebalance politics away from Westminster – and create a representative Senate of the Nations and Regions.

An elected, territorial second chamber could serve as a forum in which the UK’s constituent parts could work together in the 21st century, and would guarantee a voice for the nations and regions of the UK, to speak as one, to scrutinise legislation and our constitutional settlement with clear communities in mind.

Experts or professional politicians?

In the House of Lords, Peers are more likely to have run a palace than have helped build one.

In the current House of Lords, 29 percent of peers were politicians before entering the Lords – with the majority being former MPs. A further eight percent of peers are former political staff or held senior positions in political parties.

Election is no barrier to expertise – and at the moment we have the worst of both worlds: part-time experts who rarely attend, and full-time peers who only have experience in parliament.

Super-sized second chamber

Only China’s rubber stamping legislature, the National People’s Congress is larger than the Lords.

With over 800 members, the House of Lords is the second largest chamber in the world, and with fresh appointments after each change of government, it can only get larger.

A fully elected second chamber would have a fixed membership, with the public deciding who has the right to stay.

Party over principle? Independence in the Lords

The only legislature where losing an election helps you get a seat.

As independent Crossbench peers have to fit their time in the House of Lords around busy careers, the business of the house is often left to peers who are former politicians. 29% of Lords appointments since 1997 are former politicians who lost elections or resigned. These peers owe their position purely to patronage, with the result that around 70% of the House of Lords votes on party lines.

A proportional chamber elected by a system such as the Single Transferable Vote would mean peers would be held accountable by their constituents, not party chiefs.

Unrepresentative and out of date

Second House or Retirement Home?

With the power to appoint anyone, the House of Lords could mirror the social make up of society, but this is simply not happening.

The average age in the Lords is 70, and while Lords were recently been given the ability to retire, they can sit in the Lords for the rest of their life. Female representation in the Lords has only recently reached 28 percent.

A fully-elected house with real diversity of party candidates would make for better scrutiny and law-making.

The bloated House of Lords urgently needs reform

None of the 'Lords' sitting in the House have been elected by the public – they are there because of the family they were are born into or the politicians they pleased. Please sign our petition calling for an elected second chamber.

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Date published
02/12/21
Submission for

Briefing on Hereditary Peers and Hereditary Peer By-Elections

Type
House of Lords
Date published
21/05/21
Submission for

Response to the House of Lords Constitution Committee inquiry...

Type
Constitutional Convention