Two thirds now want elected House of Lords, ahead of key report on reform

Posted on the 31st October 2017

Support for overhaul of Lords surges from 48% in 2015 to 63% today, in wake of expenses scandals

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 2pm, 31st October 2017
  • Darren Hughes is available for interviews. For more information, contact

Nearly two thirds of voters now back an elected House of Lords, ahead of a key report on reform released today [1].

Support for overhauling the second chamber has soared over the past two years amid scandals – from 48% backing partly- or fully-elected upper house in 2015, to 63% now, according to polling by BMG Research commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) [2].

27% of people think the second chamber should be abolished – up from 22% in 2015 – while only 10% think it should remain as it is.

It comes as the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House report, released today at 2:30pm, is expected to announce changes such as a 15 year term limit on new peers, and a commitment from parties to reduce their representation over the next 10 years to reduce the Lords’ size to 600 members.

However, the ERS have described the recommendations as a ‘cheap compromise’ and ‘tinkering around the edges’ – criticising the committee for ruling out discussion of moves towards an elected Lords.

New ERS polling [3] also shows 44% of people feel Parliament does not ‘understand or represent the concerns of people like me’, compared to 30% who agree.

Just 22% of working-class / DE voters believe Parliament represents them, compared to 39% of wealthier AB voters.

Interestingly, just 18% of social housing tenants believe Parliament represents them – compared to 39% of outright home-owners.

It comes after ERS research showed that Lords who have failed to contribute in key ways to the work of the House have claimed £400,000 in expenses and allowances in 2016/17 [4].

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society:

“After years of scandals, voters want real reform of our second chamber – not tinkering around the edges. Slightly reducing the size of the Lords over a decade will do little to placate the public’s rightful anger.

“That support for an elected upper house has soared by a third in just two years shows the scale of public discontent. Britain is tired of couch potato peers taking our democracy for granted.

“To the public – and indeed to some Lords – the upper chamber is a private members’ club, rather than an essential revising chamber. This is no fit state for the Mother of all Parliaments. But peers know they can get away with it because there is simply no accountability. We have no way of kicking out lazy Lords and demanding the scrutiny our laws need.

“What we need is a much smaller, fairly-elected upper house that the public can have faith in – and where voters can hold ineffective peers to account.

“Peers cannot be allowed to mark their own homework when it comes to fixing this broken upper house. The public call for a real overhaul is loud and clear. Now let’s get on with it and give voters the democratic revising chamber Britain needs.”

Commenting on the expected recommendations of the Lord Speaker’s report, he added:

“While it’s welcome that peers are waking up to public anger, to many these limited changes will look like a cheap compromise. All the problems we have seen about the culture and composition of the House would remain – from inactive peers claiming thousands in expenses, to party appointees simply there on the basis of their donations.

“The commitment for parties to reduce their size goes part of the way to meeting the challenge on size. But the ten year time span for getting numbers down to Commons levels is almost laughable.

“By basing new appointments on parties’ election success, peers are conceding that democracy matters. If that’s the case, why not elect the place? Instead we risk the worst of all worlds – parties continuing to appoint their cronies, while peers kick the can down the road when it comes to real reform. In a democracy, voters decide who stays and goes, not political elites.

“While this tinkering might work for parties, it will not work for voters. All of this is reminiscent of the hereditary Lords ‘compromise’ we saw at the end of the 90’s – with democracy losing out. Voters want a smaller upper house. But this inquiry cannot be used as a red herring – distracting from the need for a truly accountable upper chamber.

“Backroom deals just bolster the view that the House of Lords is a dinner society, rather than the revising chamber we need. With public opinion in Parliament at rock bottom, there is a democratic emergency right now. These measures will simply paper over the cracks.

“These changes are about as radical as private members’ club voting to allow their members not to wear ties. We can and must go further before trust in politics dips further.”


Notes to Editors

[1] The proposals from the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House are for new peerages to have a 15-year time limit, and for the four main groups in the Lords (Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Cross-Benchers) to commit to reducing their size over time. New appointments will be based on election results:

[2] Polling by BMG Research for the ERS. Fieldwork dates: 16 – 20 October 2017. Representative sample of 1506 GB adults aged 18+.

The question asked was: “Currently, members of the House of Lords are not elected but appointed to the chamber by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. Which of the following statements is closest to your view?”

[3] The question asked was: “Thinking about the UK Parliament (at Westminster), as an institution and system of government, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? ‘I feel that the UK Parliament is capable of understanding and effectively representing the concerns of people like me.’”

[4] See here:

This data was updated after the House of Lords admitted they submitted incorrect data to Hansard:

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