The House of Lords was already bursting at the seams, but the latest batch of appointments from the Prime Minister has taken it past breaking point.
Over 800 unelected lawmakers will be voting on decisions that affect all of us, with no way for voters to kick them out.
The Prime Minister’s 16 new peers – snuck out over Christmas – are likely to cost the taxpayer nearly half a million pounds (£490,992) every year, the Electoral Reform Society has calculated.
The figures are based on the average of 579 peers per month who attended the House and made a claim last year. The average amount claimed across the course of 2019-20 was £30,687 per peer per year, with the new unelected Lords will be able to claim allowances and expenses tax-free for the rest of their lives. There is, sadly, almost no accountability if they let down the public.
If they attended each day, the new Lords could end up costing taxpayers as much as £728,688 per year, once the virtual proceedings come to an end (those attending virtually claim a reduced amount).
As the world’s second-largest legislative body, surpassed only by China’s National People’s Congress, the growing size of the Lords comes at a huge cost to taxpayers and our democracy. Voters are tired of being taken for a ride.
While many Lords do work hard, voters might feel less aggrieved about paying them if they actually had a say on who sat in there. It is simply unacceptable in a democracy for party donors to be handed votes on our laws for life.
The Christmas stuffing of the chamber marks the end of any pretence that the Lords is an independent revising chamber – not least after the PM overrode the views of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC) to hand a seat to a major party donor.
As one Baroness put it recently: “The real crisis is that this House has lost touch with our nation….We often represent not much more than a metropolitan bubble, and we all know what happens to bubbles.”
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One thing is clearer than ever: the unelected House of Lords is a corrupting influence at the heart of Westminster, and Prime Ministers simply cannot help themselves. Enough is enough.
Polling by Survation for the ERS in September found that 71% now support an overhaul of Britain’s bloated upper house, with 43% of respondents in favour of a partially or fully elected replacement, and 28% supporting its abolition entirely.
The PM has promised to ‘level up’ Britain. The London-dominated House of Lords would be a good place to start. It’s time to replace it with a proportionally-elected Senate of the Nations and Regions, introducing some much-needed accountability in this broken chamber.
MPs and even some peers have expressed anger over the new cronyistic additions to the House. They must now come together to set out a package of reform – introducing some real democracy – now that Parliament is returning. Without change, this taxpayer-funded private member’s club will continue to drag down trust in politics – and leave the public locked out.
Sign the ERS’ petition for a proportionally-elected second chamber