- Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, Thursday 13th August 2020.
Campaigners are calling out a fresh expenses scandal in the House of Lords, following research published in the New Statesman today.
An investigation by the publication found life peers ‘appear guilty of expensive inaction’ : “Analysis found that on average that they claimed £20,935 from April 2019 to February 2020, contributed to 12 debates, produced seven written questions and voted 23 times. Fewer than half sat on a committee.”
The research found that: “140 eligible peers took part in no debates in from April 2019-Feb 2020. Neither could they reasonably claim to have participated by listening and voting rather than speaking: on average, those 140 peers voted ten times out of a possible 51. For 48 of the 140, there is no record of them voting at all. 120 out of nearly 800 voted five times or fewer in this time period.”
On hereditary peers, the magazine found: “The average hereditary peer claimed £20,604 (including travel expenses) for speaking in [an average of] ten or fewer debates over the 113-day period [between April 19-Feb 20], submitting six or fewer written questions, and voting 22 times out of the 51 possible votes.”
In the 2016/17 session, the ERS found that 115 Lords – one in seven of the total – failed to speak at all, despite claiming an average of £11,091 each, while 18 peers failed to vote but still claimed £93,162. These new figures suggest the problem of non-contribution is getting worse .
Nearly 400,000 people have signed the ERS’ petition this year to scrap and replace the House of Lords  – up from 170,000 at the end of July.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“There is a something-for-nothing culture in Britain’s unelected house – and that’s no surprise when voters cannot kick out those who are failing them. Despite many peers working hard, our supposed revising chamber is sinking with dead weight, and zero accountability.
“These figures suggest the problem of ‘silent peers’ is only getting worse. Britain’s super-sized second chamber needs to be made far leaner, with dedicated scrutineers replacing the current expenses free-for-all.
“There are a worrying number of couch-potato peers and lobby-fodder Lords – at a time when there is plenty to scrutinise – ostensibly the upper chamber’s role. The time for piecemeal reform is long over. Voters deserve a revising chamber that is fit for purpose.
“Let’s move to a slimmed-down, PR-elected chamber for the nations and regions – and finally get this house in order.”
Notes to Editors