Pressure for Lords reform grows after raft of ‘cronyistic’ appointments

Posted on the 3rd August 2020

Electoral Reform Society calls for Lords to ‘get serious’ about reform following anger over 36 new appointments to bloated chamber.

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release Monday 3rd August 2020. Contact Josiah on 07717211630 / [email protected] for more comment or to arrange an interview

Pressure is mounting for an overhaul of the House of Lords after the PM announced a wave of new ex-MPs, party loyalists and donors to the second chamber.

The ERS said any claim to the Lords’ independence is being ‘shattered’, after the government over-rode a vote of peers to reduce their numbers to 600 through a ‘one in, two out’ system.

Lord Speaker Lord Fowler condemned the move over the weekend and said that some of the new peers will be merely ‘passengers’ [1].

Lord Fowler told the BBC’s Today Programme on Saturday:  “I do think the prime minister has got to stop these kinds of mass appointments because I think the public are unimpressed with it… I think most of us in the House of Lords are unimpressed with it and it is not necessary – we don’t need a House of Lords of 830.

“It is ridiculous because it is far too many for the duties… What you are doing is encouraging some in the House of Lords who are quite frankly passengers and don’t make much effort in any event” he said.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Pressure is mounting for an overhaul of the Lords, after this shocking batch of cronyistic appointments. Even the Lord Speaker recognises that this situation is untenable and has completely over-ridden even the Lords’ modest attempts at self-regulation.

“At over 800 members, this bloated chamber is making a mockery of democracy. If the Lords are to have any credibility, they must now put their apparent anger into action and propose legislation to finally introduce some accountability into the unelected house. Otherwise, all notions of ‘independence’ in this anachronistic chamber will have been completely shattered.

“The anger is palpable. It’s time for Parliament to join the 21st century, with the fairly-elected second chamber that Britain deserves. This over-sized, expenses free-for-all must be overhauled at last.”

The 36 new peers tip the number of peers over the 800 mark, at a likely cost of £1.1m a year based on the average expenses claim. Peers can usually claim £323 a day tax-free – for the rest of their lives – for signing into the Lords.

Democracy campaigners believe the new appointments will make a ‘mockery’ of supposed efforts in the chamber to keep numbers down.
Nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition [2] calling for the House of Lords to be scrapped and replaced. The petition which was started at the beginning of the year, has seen a surge in recent days.

It comes as ERS research reveals that London and the South East are ‘dramatically over-represented’ in the second house, a finding exacerbated by the latest spate of appointments [3].

The ERS want to see a far smaller, PR-elected Senate of the Nations and Regions to replace the Lords.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/aug/02/jeremy-corbyn-makes-fresh-complaint-over-rejected-house-of-lords-nominees

[2] https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-no-more-unelected-peers-scrap-and-replace-the-house-of-lords-now-8a773851-b785-4652-9dc5-79b07a0de8d4

[3] New ERS research reveals the London-dominated nature of the second chamber:

Location Number of peers residing in each area Proportion of peers residing in an area (as % of all peers for which place of residence is available) Percentage of the UK adult population residing in an area Difference between peers and UK population in each area
London 118 23.7% 13.1% 10.6%
South East 100 20.1% 13.7% 6.4%
East of England 58 11.6% 9.3% 2.3%
South West 45 9.0% 8.6% 0.4%
Scotland 43 8.6% 8.4% 0.2%
Yorkshire & Humber 31 6.2% 8.2% -2.0%
North West 22 4.4% 11.0% -6.6%
Wales 19 3.8% 4.8% -1.0%
North East 16 3.2% 4.1% -0.9%
West Midlands 16 3.2% 8.8% -5.6%
East Midlands 15 3.0% 7.3% -4.3%
Northern Ireland 11 2.2% 2.8% -0.6%
Overseas 4 0.8% N/A N/A

Based on the latest expense forms, which covers the period 1-29 February, we have data on place of residence for 498 peers. (Population data is based on the latest ONS estimate of January 2019)

The eight peers for which we have location data, but who are currently on leave of absence and thus ineligible to sit in the Lords, all have London as their place of residence.

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