House of Lords expenses: More tax-free cash for unelected peers, as Lords get above-inflation rise

Posted on the 11th February 2020

  • Statement for immediate release from the Electoral Reform Society, 11th February 2020. 
  • Contact Jon Narcross, Communications Officer – [email protected] / 07794728820 for interviews or more information.

The Electoral Reform Society has called for a halt in the planned rise in expenses for peers after a review announced an above-3% pay rise for the unelected upper house.

Peers are to see their daily allowance for turning up to the House of Lords rise by more than 3 per cent this year, above inflation – which is set to be below 2% across the UK in 2020. UK workers are expected to receive just a 1.1% pay rise in 2020 [1].

It comes ahead of a new batch of peerages likely to be announced in the next two weeks [2].

From April all members of the Lords will receive a tax-free payment of £323 a day for just “signing in” to confirm their attendance, up from the current £305 a day.

The new rate could see peers take home nearly £50,000 tax-free, for just 145 sitting days in the chamber.

The latest Lords business plan budgets for £23m in expenses and allowances per year for Lords [3] – a rise from £19m in 2016/17 [3]. If all current 794 peers turned up for the 145 sitting days, it would cost £46,835 per peer, per year, £256,462 per day, for all eligible peers, and £37,186,990 per year, all eligible peers, the ERS has calculated.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director (Campaigns) at the Electoral Reform Society said:

“Voters will not be pleased with unelected peers getting yet another surge in expenses, while most people will barely see a pay rise in 2020 at all. The current system is ripe for exploitation, with peers having to do little more than sign in to claim their tax-free allowance. The fact that voters cannot hold them to account at the ballot box is a recipe for wanton disregard for taxpayers, and yet more expenses scandals in Parliament’s de facto private members’ club.

“If allowances continue to rise without scrutiny, the image of peers keeping the taxi running as they dash in and out to claim their cash will only persist. The ERS has revealed in recent years how the taxpayer has been left with bills of millions for peers who barely contribute so much as a speech in the chamber. While many Lords do work hard, voters might feel less aggrieved about paying them if they actually had a say on who sat in the chamber.

“This is an expenses-scandal in the making, and the system is crying out for reform. This hike should be scrapped while the government gets on with plans for real change to the chamber: moving to much smaller, fairly-elected scrutiny chamber.

“A far learner, proportionally-elected senate of the nations and regions will help restore faith in democracy. At the moment, the loophole-ridden, scrutiny-free expenses set-up just allows distrust to sink deeper into our democracy.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] Pay in 2020 https://employeebenefits.co.uk/salary-increases-uk-0-1-lower/ Inflation in 2020 https://www.statista.com/statistics/306720/inflation-rate-forecast-consumer-price-index-cpi-united-kingdom-uk/

[2] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/daily-allowance-in-the-house-of-lords-will-rise-to-323-52nnthrxj

[3] Page 26. The total cost of the House of Lords in 2019/20 is put at £258m (which includes restoration/renewal costs) https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-information-office/2019/House%20of%20Lords%20Business%20Plan%202019-20.pdf

[4] 455 Lords claimed more than the average take-home pay of full-time employees during the 2016/17 session – despite the house sitting for just 141 days. 33 inactive peers picked up £462,510 in tax-free expenses – claiming an average of £746 per vote. Daily allowance and travel costs for the 2016-17 session came to over £19 million https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/revealed-the-true-cost-of-the-house-of-lords/

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