Super-sized House of Lords needs to cut its intake, say democracy campaigners

Posted on the 27th July 2020

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release: 27th July 2020. Contact Josiah on 07717211630 / [email protected] for more comment or to arrange an interview

The Electoral Reform Society has warned that plans to appoint dozens of new Lords make a mockery of the chamber’s supposed plans to slim down. 

The Lords’ Speaker Lord Fowler has written to all peers warning against plans to appoint up to dozens of new peers [1]. It reveals that mooted plans to pack the chamber with more appointees [2] will reverse any recent reduction in numbers. The ERS has obtained a copy of the letter.

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

“There has been almost no progress on reducing the size of the Lords this century. From around 700 members after many hereditaries were scrapped, we’re now at nearly 800 unelected unelected peers.

“Despite recent claims from peers that they’d sort their size out, the Lords remains the largest revising chamber in the world, with 800 appointees who continue to vote on our laws with no accountability. This super-sized House needs to cut its crony-intake drastically.

“Instead, the PM looks set on appointing dozens more friends to the bloated house. For all the Lords’ protests, there’s nothing they can do about it – because this so-called scrutiny chamber is at the whim of the Prime Minister. That is a recipe for bad decision-making and a supine legislature.

“It also looks increasingly like an impediment to national security. The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on possible Russian interference in the UK showed that the chamber is a loophole-ridden, scrutiny-free zone when it comes to their own dealings [3].

“It is long past time for an overhaul: a slimmed-down, fairly-elected revising chamber worthy of the Mother of Parliaments. Let’s shed some light in those dark corridors of power.”

Peers have recently been speaking in huge numbers, reportedly to claim their virtual Parliament expenses of £160 a day (tax-free) [4]. The ERS has previously branded the Lords a ‘rolling expenses scandal’.

ENDS
Notes to Editors

[1] The ERS has obtained a copy of the letter. In it, Lord Fowler states: 

“Rumour has it that the much-leaked list of new Peers may soon be published…The picture today is as follows. Since the starting date of the scheme on 8 June 2017 (the day of the General Election), 92 members have left the House and 56 have joined… at this stage, and in line with the two-out one-in principle [which the PM can ignore], we would have expected only 45 joiners, so with 56 we have already absorbed more appointments than the scheme permits. As I write this, we have 792 members. Clearly any substantial intake of new members will drive us over 800 – perhaps to somewhere near the figures back in 2016 and further away from our aim of a 600-member House.”

See also Politico this morning: https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/london-playbook/politico-london-playbook-war-on-waists-spanish-inquisition-quarantine-age-angst/

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/the-government-is-set-to-appoint-dozens-of-new-lords-for-life/

[3] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/russia-report-highlights-risk-of-foreign-interference-in-house-of-lords/ 

[4] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/britains-unelected-lords-are-signing-up-to-speak-in-huge-numbers-heres-why/

The Electoral Reform Society is the UK’s leading voice for democratic reform. We work with everyone – from political parties, civil society groups and academics to our own members and supporters and the wider public – to campaign for a better democracy in the UK.

Our vision is of a democracy fit for the 21st century, where every voice is heard, every vote is valued equally, and every citizen is empowered to take part. We make the case for lasting political reforms, we seek to embed democracy into the heart of public debate, and we foster the democratic spaces which encourage active citizenship.

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