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.