Four in five voters think Lords should be smaller than peers’ recommendation

Posted on the 2nd November 2017

“We’ll have people on Mars by the time these proposals are introduced” – ERS responds in full to Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the Lords

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 31st October 2017
  • Darren Hughes is available for interviews. For more information, contact

88% of voters believe the House of Lords should be smaller than a reformed Commons [1] – rebutting a new report on the size of the upper chamber [2].

The influential Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House published proposals for a 600-member upper house on Tuesday (31st).

And while polling for the Electoral Reform Society by BMG Research shows that just 8% support the Lords’ current size, voters want a much smaller second chamber:

  • 88% of voters believe the Lords should be under 600 members
  • 28% think it should be between 400 and 500 members – far smaller than the Lords committee’s recommendations
  • The average size backed by voters is 383.
  • Backing for much smaller chamber consistent across all parties and demographics – 89% of Tories want under-600, to 93% of Labour voters. 95% for UKIP and 90% Lib Dems.

Support for overhauling the second chamber has soared over the past two years amid scandals – from 48% backing partly- or fully-elected upper house in 2015, to 63% now [3].

The findings come after ERS research showed that Lords who have failed to contribute in key ways to the work of the House have claimed £400,000 in expenses and allowances in 2016/17 [4].

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society:

“The proposal to cut down to 600 members in 11 years is so cautious not to scare current peers that it barely amounts to a reform at all. And we’ll have people on Mars by the time these proposals are fully introduced.

“The UK in 2042 – when these reforms would be fully in place – will be totally different. So it feels inconceivable that we should still have a totally unelected chamber then. We’ll be in driverless cars while our upper chamber will still be packed full of hereditary peers and bishops by default.

“Even with this painfully long time frame, an upper house of 600 will still be the second largest in the world after China. Most European democracies have upper chamber of around 100 members. Even India only had 240 or so members in its second house.

“As this poll shows, the public know we can and should have a much-smaller chamber – with full-time members rather than part-time, couch-potato peers. Yet under these plans, our Lords will continue to be outdated, oversized and packed full of party donors – and frankly an embarrassment for Britain.

“The democratic crisis we see in Parliament is happening now. It needs dealing with now  – not in 2027 or 2042 as this report suggests. We must move fast on real reform before public faith in Parliament falls any further. Vague commitments from party leaders now to reduce numbers over decades will do nothing to prevent that.”

“The fact that the report proposes no reduction in the number of hereditary peers simply adds another layer of ludicrousness. As the committee admit, reducing the size of the upper house overall without reducing the number of hereditary peers will make only increase the power of aristocrats over our democracy – something that seems a democratic outrage now, let alone in 15 years.

“We need is a much smaller, fairly-elected upper house that the public can have faith in – and where voters can hold ineffective peers to account.

“Peers cannot be allowed to mark their own homework when it comes to fixing this broken upper house. The public call for a real overhaul is loud and clear. Now let’s get on with it and give voters the democratic revising chamber Britain needs.”


Notes to Editors

[1] Polling by BMG Research for the ERS. Fieldwork dates: 16 – 20 October 2017. Representative sample of 1506 GB adults aged 18+.
For full cross-tabs contact

The question asked was: “As is stands, there are currently 799 members of the House of Lords. In your view, what would be an ideal size for the House of Lords? Please put a ‘0’ (zero) if you don’t think there should be a House of Lords.”

Column % Total
1 to 100 18%
101 to 200 10%
201 to 300 14%
301 to 400 12%
401 to 500 28%
501 to 600 5%
601 to 700 3%
701 to 800 8%
801 to 1000 1%
Total 100%
Mean Score 382.9
Median 400
Mode 500
Unweighted Base 937
Weighted Base 917




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