House of Lords

If people vote on our laws, they should be elected by the British public: that’s democracy.

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The House of Lords totally fails to represent the diverse skills and experience of the UK. It is out of control – with over 800 members the second largest legislative chamber in the world after China. And it costs far too much for an institution that fails to reflect the British public.

The cost of the Lords

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 £300 a day tax-free each day they attend, plus some travel costs. Between February 2014 to January 2015, £21 million was spent on Lords allowances and expenses, with the average Peer receiving £25,826.

A smaller, fully-elected and full-time House of Lords would be better for tax-payers.

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, 27% of Peers were politicians before entering the Lords – with the majority being former MPs. A further seven 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 around 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. 25% of Lords appointments since 1997 are former MPs who lost elections or resigned. These peers owe their position purely to patronage, with the result that 71% 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.

Only 29 peers are under 50, 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 24% (199). London and the South-East are massively over-represented; Peers fail to represent the whole country.

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

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What we propose:

  • An  elected second chamber of around 300 members using the Single Transferable Vote form of proportional representation. This would mean it was both proportional and that each member was individually elected.
  • Elections by thirds to ensure the House of Commons always has a fresher democratic mandate.
  • One-off 12/15-year terms would mean members wouldn’t be constantly thinking of re-election.
  • Members of the second chamber should be banned from standing for the House of Commons for a period of four years to prevent it becoming a waiting room for the Commons.
  • Codifying existing conventions to ensure it would be practically and legally impossible for the second chamber to bring government to a halt.
  • There should be no reserved seats for Bishops of the Church of England, or indeed for any faith community leaders.
  • Action by political parties to ensure a real diversity of candidates beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and measures to encourage Independents to stand.

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
Submission for

Hereditary peers: By-elections briefing July 2018

House of Lords
Date published
Submission for

House of Lords ‘abolition’ – Westminster Hall debate

House of Lords