The already super-sized House of Lords is about to get bigger

Electoral Reform Society
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Electoral Reform Society

Posted on the 27th July 2020

Plans to appoint dozens of new unelected Lords make a mockery of claims that the chamber is slimming down. 

It’s got so bad that the Lords’ Speaker Lord Fowler has now written to all peers, warning that if the Prime Minister goes ahead with packing the chamber, it will reverse a recent reduction in numbers – bringing the size of the unelected chamber past a whopping 800 members.

The ERS has obtained a copy of the letter. In it, Lord Fowler states that since the 2017 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.”

In other words – the Lords is already off-track when it comes to reducing its numbers. Plans to pack it with more political hacks will make peers claims they can ‘self-regulate’ seem laughable.

There has been almost no progress on reducing the size of the Lords this century: we’ve gone from around 700 members in 2000, to significantly above that number today.

And 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. While many peers work hard, there are far too many – and voters are unable to kick out those who fall short.

The chamber also looks increasingly like an impediment to national security. The Intelligence and Security Committee’s new 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.

It is long past time for an overhaul. We need a slimmed-down, fairly-elected revising chamber worthy of the Mother of Parliaments.

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