There is no room left in the House of Lords and no appetite for yet more peers

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive

Posted on the 14th February 2018

Whether it’s a restaurant, a stadium, or your belly – when something is full, logic determines you stop adding to it.

This basic principle should be applied to the House of Lords, but it isn’t.

There are currently 793 peers making it the second largest legislative chamber in the world, after China’s National People’s Congress.

There are more peers than could ever sit in the chamber at the same time, and the bulk of the work of the House is done by a much smaller group of peers.

This situation isn’t normal. Most democracies have upper chambers which are around 100 members: India’s upper house is only 245 members, France’s is made up of 348 members, and Germany’s just 69.

The growing consensus is that the current size of the House of Lords is not only absurd but also an embarrassment.

New polling shows this is a view shared by the majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Of those with a view, nearly four in five (78%) believe there are already too many Lords – compared to just 18% who think the current size is ‘about right’. Just 4% say there are ‘too few’ peers.

That’s the situation now. But rumours have been bubbling about new appointments to be made in the near future.

It has been reported that Theresa May is set to appoint 12 new members of the House of Lords, while Jeremy Corbyn is set to appoint three new members – sending the total number to over 800.

The polling finds that 60% of those with a view oppose the mooted appointments – compared to just 9% who support them.

This isn’t a partisan issue: party leaders face similar levels of opposition across the political spectrum.

59% of Conservatives are against the new peerages, as well as 63% of Labour voters.

Question: It has been reported that in the coming weeks Theresa May is set to appoint 12 new members of the House of Lords and Jeremy Corbyn is set to appoint 3 new members. To what extent do you support or oppose further appointments being made to the House of Lords?’

Nor is the opposition entirely outside the walls of Parliament – overpopulation of the Lords has also been identified by concerned Peers themselves (only a cynic would suggest this was a means of self-preservation).

A recent report commissioned by the Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, proposed a ‘two-out, one-in’ system to bring the total down to 600 by 2027.

Downing Street barely concealed the fact it has no intention to act on the report, stating it would study it carefully but that ‘comprehensive’ reforms were not a priority.

So why in the context of widespread opposition to expanding the House of Lords – including from peers themselves and Conservative voters – is the Prime Minister set to introduce a further dozen?

The answer, of course, lie with the political demands upon her: namely being able to get the EU withdrawal Bill through the House of Lords without amendment or delay.

But what does it say about the Mother of Parliaments when opposition can be overcome by packing one chamber to the rafters with party loyalists – many of whom are donors or defeated politicians?

Question: ‘There are currently 794 members of the House of Lords. In your view, is this too many, too few, or is the number about right?’

We are faced with a bizarre problem: there’s no room left in the clubhouse. Perhaps that will lead to the realisation that this gentleman’s club has had its day, after all.

Rather than trying to squeeze them all in, there’s a better solution: to listen to the calls for change, and embark on a reform agenda. Times change – now Parliament must follow suit and give us a second chamber which is fit for a modern democracy.

Sign our petition to stop appointing peers to the Lords

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