The Supersized House of Lords

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 16th June 2013

The House of Lords Reform Bill is gone. But the House of Lords remains unsustainable.

At the heart of this problem is the chamber’s scope for growth. The House of Lords is already the largest Second Chamber in the Western world. A chamber that had approximately 50 members in the early 1700s has grown unchecked through the power of patronage. As former Minister for

Political and Constitutional Reform Mark Harper MP observed in February last year:

“If we have one more change of government, it’s going to have over 1,000 members.”

Existing estimates however have underestimated the problem. In recent years Prime Ministers have sought to attain broad political balance within the Upper House following a general election. But that principle has never been tested by the kind of the result the next election could yield.

If we consider the predicted collapse in the Liberal Democrat share of the vote then we are looking at a future House of Lords being realigned around a fixed number of Liberal Democrat peers.

The Lords was 1400 strong before the 1999 reforms. We can reasonably expect to break that barrier within the lifetime of the next parliament.

We already have a Super-Sized Second Chamber –  but elected lawmakers are set to become an ever-dwindling minority on the national stage.

Labour have remained tight-lipped on constitutional policy. There is an opportunity here to show some leadership. Ed Miliband needs to decide now if come 2015 he intends pack the House to the rafters or bring the curtain down.

Because it’s clear Lords Reform will return to the national agenda. It’s a simple matter of maths.

Our briefing The Super-Sized Second Chamber is available for download here

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