Now that David Cameron has moved out of Number 10, the staggering bill he has left behind is starting to become apparent. Since 2010, he has appointed 205 new life peers to the House of Lords – unelected legislators who can change the very laws we all live under, yet remain entirely unaccountable to the British public. The final 16 who joined the second chamber on the former Prime Minister’s resignation honours last week now have a job for life, without an appraisal, key performance indicator or end of year target in sight.
We went through the last six years of peers’ expense reports, adding up their attendance and travel expenses to work out exactly what David Cameron’s appointments bonanza has cost us so far. Every peer is eligible to claim £300 a day for turning up at Westminster, plus their travel expenses to get to London – making the bill so far over £13 million for Cameron’s 189 appointments before last week.
Even this sky-high figure is a conservative estimate since it doesn’t take into account the external infrastructure, catering and office costs associated with appointing more peers. It’s been a long time since all the peers could physically fit in the House of Lords, but now we have nearly four peers for every seat available.
Based on the average amount claimed in expenses and allowances by Cameron’s appointees since he became PM, David Cameron’s ‘resignation list’ of 16 extra peers will cost the taxpayer £444,288 per year, for many, many, years to come.
Last year – 2015 alone – the total cost of Cameron appointees was £3.04m, with the average peer claiming £24,088.
Some 40 of the peers appointed by Cameron were former MPs – each of whom claim £39,058 per year compared to £25,823 for those who aren’t ex-MPs. Cameron is just following tradition here, as since 1997 one quarter of all peers have been ex MPs. Not only can we not hold peers accountable, but also former MPs who no longer have a public mandate can just stroll across the hall to the second chamber and back into government.
In the first two months of 2016 alone – the latest data we have available – Cameron appointees claimed £840,424. This is a rise of around £123,261 from the £717,163 claimed by peers in the first two months of 2015. This is likely because of the Lords getting even larger – suggesting that this year may be even more expensive than the last.
The House of Lords does valuable work scrutinising the government of the day, but it does this despite the fact it is not elected, not because of it. Only the UK, Kazakhstan and Burkina Faso have a second chamber larger than its first. A smaller, leaner, democratically elected second chamber could hold the government to account and cut the cost of politics at the same time. There is a reason just 10% of the public think that the House of Lords should remain an entirely unelected chamber.
In a modern democracy, the only fair way to appoint lawmakers is to elect them. We now have a new government with a fresh perspective – let’s get to work on addressing the national embarrassment that is the House of Lords. Let’s grasp the nettle once and for all and introduce a proportional, elected upper house.
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