New figures reveal Lords is dominated by ex-politicians and South East

Posted on the 18th June 2018

ERS analysis shows many Northern regions and key professions/industries are hugely underrepresented in the second chamber.

The House of Lords is ‘totally failing’ to reflect the UK, as new research reveals most peers live in London and the surrounding areas.

The figures are released in a new briefing [1], published ahead of Monday’s Westminster Hall debate, which will see MPs discuss the 170,000-strong e-petition to scrap the Lords [2].

The analysis shows that of the 564 peers whose place of residence is known [3], 306 (54%) live in either Greater London, the South East or the East of England.

Yet the East Midlands, West Midlands and North West are all highly under-represented – with just 5% of peers listed claiming they live in the North West, compared to 11% of the public.

Meanwhile, new data on the backgrounds of all 816 peers [4] has revealed that almost 39% previously worked in politics.

Just one peer’s main background is manual/skilled work – half the number who worked as royal family staff.

The figures show the Lords is made up of 235 former politicians, 68 political staffers and 13 civil servants.

Representative politics has seen the biggest rise in the past three years [5] – with 15 more peers having worked in the area. Meanwhile, nine fewer peers come from a background in higher education.

The Electoral Reform Society, which carried out the research, say it highlights how out of touch the second chamber is with the UK – and the ‘desperate need for real reform’ of the chamber.

House of Cronies: The winners and the losers (full data at bottom of release)

Region Quantity Percentage Population Over-representation (Percentage point)
Greater London 142 25% 13% 12%
South East 105 19% 13% 6%
East Midlands 15 3% 7% -4%
West Midlands 22 4% 9% -5%
North West 28 5% 11% -6%

 

Primary profession Total (including new/ineligible peers) % of total Change on 2015
Representative politics 235 29% +15
Political staff and activists 68 8% +11
Voluntary sector, NGOs and think tanks 32 4% +7
Culture, arts and sport 18 2% -3
Journalism, media and publishing 32 4% -4
Trade unions 22 3% -4
Higher education 43 5% -9

 

The Electoral Reform Society’s Chief Executive, Darren Hughes, said:

“These figures reveal the appalling centralisation of Parliament’s second chamber. This London-dominated house totally fails to represent huge swathes of the UK.

“Regions including the North West and the Midlands are not only under-represented, but those peers who say they live there do not represent each region’s diversity – whether in terms of their politics or otherwise.

“The Lords is looking increasingly like just another Westminster private members’ club – and it’s not hard to see why when the system is so unbalanced.

“Adding to the detachment between the House of Lords and UK citizens is the fact that so many peers are former politicians.

“When the PM can stuff a so-called scrutiny chamber with whoever they want, the result is that it fails to reflect the nation.

“That won’t be solved by bunging in a few more unelected cronies. Instead, a fairly-elected chamber of the regions would ensure guaranteed, proportional representation and a strong voice for all parts of the UK.

A London-dominated chamber

Of those peers whose residence is known, a staggering 25% (142) live in Greater London, despite the region accounting for just 13% of the population.

The South East is also hugely over-represented, with 105 peers stating they live there.

At the other end of the scale, just 28 peers (5%) have stated they live in the North West. The region includes Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington and is home to 11% of the UK population.

The West Midlands, East Midlands and Yorkshire are also significantly under-represented.

See below for a full breakdown for each region of the UK.

Moving in the right circles

The number of former politicians in the House of Lords is not just wildly disproportionate but is also on the rise.

In 2015 there were 220, but this has now increased to 235 after the introduction of new peers. They now account for 29% of the chamber.

Other common professional backgrounds include business and commerce (70 peers), legal professions (55 peers), and banking and finance (49 peers.)

Meanwhile, Baroness Blood is the only peer with a background in manual labour having previously worked in a linen mill.

Among other poorly represented professions are transport (three peers) and education and training (five peers, excluding higher education).

See below for a full breakdown of peers’ primary former occupations.

ENDS

[1] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Parliamentary-briefing-House-of-Lords-Abolition-Debate.pdf

[2] https://calendar.parliament.uk/calendar/Commons/All/2018/6/18/Daily and https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/209433?reveal_response=yes

[3] Shockingly, Lords are not required to say where they live, meaning 30% refuse to state where they are based. According to the ERS, nearly a third could be living abroad and voters would have no idea.

[4] This includes newly appointed but not yet introduced peers, and those who do not currently vote (ineligible peers/those on leaves of absence).

[5] See the ERS’ ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report on the Lords https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/House-of-Lords-Fact-Vs-Fiction-Report.pdf

Research findings in full

Methodology

For the regional representation analysis, data was taken from the ‘House of Lords Publication of Financial Support for Members, 1 – 31 December 2017’, available at https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-finance-office/2017-18/allowances-expenses-2017-18-month9-december.pdf.

The data relates to the location of peers’ registered addresses (county or equivalent), as provided by peers for the purposes of claiming allowances and expenses. Peers may choose to have their location data included in the claims published on Parliament’s website, but unfortunately, it is not obligatory. For the claims covering the 1 – 31 December period, location data is available for 564 peers. (The 236 peers for whom no location was available are not included in the analysis.) The data was subsequently cleaned and categorised into regions to ensure consistency in the reporting of location information.

For the professions analysis, data on peers’ professions were taken from their respective entries on the Parliament UK website, where available, and other online sources (e.g. Dodds). Statistics include the 13 new peers appointed in May 2018. The classification scheme for professional areas follows that used by Meg Russell and Meghan Benton (2010) in Analysis of existing data on the breadth of expertise and experience in the House of Lords: Report to the House of Lords Appointments Commission, available at http://lordsappointments.independent.gov.uk/media/17348/ucl_report.pdf.

Following Russell and Benton (2010), each peer was assigned a primary profession, where possible, which represents their most significant professional area taking into account the length of their occupation and, if appropriate, their most recent employment. Where possible, some peers were also assigned a secondary profession. Professional categories are not mutually exclusive: in some circumstances, a judgement was made as to the category which best described a peer’s professional background.

Full data

Regional data

Region Quantity Percentage Population Over-representation (Percentage point)
Greater London 142 25% 13% +12%
South East 105 19% 13% +6%
East of England 59 10% 9% +1%
South West 52 9% 8% +1%
Scotland 50 9% 8% +1%
Yorkshire and Humber 33 6% 8% -2%
North West 28 5% 11% -6%
West Midlands 22 4% 9% -5%
Wales 21 4% 5% -1%
North East 18 3% 4% -1%
East Midlands 15 3% 7% -4%
Northern Ireland 15 3% 3% 0
Overseas 4 1%
TOTAL 564 100%    

 

Occupation data

Primary profession Total (including new/ineligible peers) % of total Change on 2015
Representative politics 235 29% +15
Political staff and activists 68 8% +11
Voluntary sector, NGOs and think tanks 32 4% +7
Unclassified 11 1% +2
Architecture, engineering and construction 8 1% +1
Banking and finance 49 6% +1
Clergy or religious 38 5% +1
International affairs and diplomacy 10 1% +1
Legal professions 55 7% +1
Civil service (UK) 13 2% 0
Local authority administration 1 0% 0
Manual and skilled trades 1 0%` 0
Royal family staff 2 0% 0
Transport 3 0% 0
Armed forces 15 2% -1
Business and commerce 70 9% -1
Education and training (not HE) 5 1% -1
Police 8 1% -1
Medical and healthcare 17 2% -2
Other private sector 29 4% -2
Other public sector 12 1% -2
Agriculture and horticulture 19 2% -3
Culture, arts and sport 18 2% -3
Journalism, media and publishing 32 4% -4
Trade unions 22 3% -4
Higher education 43 5% -9
TOTAL 816 100  

 

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