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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cameron's plan to pack the Lords will cost millions

The Electoral Reform Society today release new figures which show how out of control the House of Lords has become in terms of its size and cost – less than a day after the Prime Minister appeared to rule out reform of the upper chamber. The House of Lords is growing in size with each new government - and it shows no sign of slowing down despite scandal after scandal, the Society shows in the new research.

Their research, which they released today shows:
  • The Prime Minister’s plans to appoint 50 more Peers over the summer would cost at least £1.3m, while an additional 100 peers - a prospect very much on the table - would cost at least £2.6m in expenses and allowances.
  • To ‘rebalance’ the upper chamber strictly in line with the 2015 General Election results - without kicking out Peers en masse or moving to a fully elected chamber - would require an additional 704 Peers, bringing the number of unelected Peers to 1490. Unelected lawmakers would outnumber our elected MPs by more than two to one. A 'rebalanced' Lords on the basis of the May 7th result could cost at least £18m.
  • According to the House of Lords Resource Accounts analysed by the ERS, the net operating costs of the House of Lords in 2013-4 was £93.1m, approximately equivalent to £118k per peer.
  • During the period spanning February 2014 to January 2015 £21,424,729 was spent on Lords allowances and expenses, with the average peer receiving £25,826. 

These figures are likely to be much higher when additional operating costs are added, with the Lords already stretched to breaking point. The research comes ahead of a major report by the Society due to be released in August.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "Our unelected House of Lords is growing out of control, and shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, this government is set to appoint dozens more Peers over the summer - despite repeated scandals - going back many years - and calls from the public to have a leaner and more democratic chamber. These latest figures only serve to reinforce the need for a radical rethink about our second chamber, which is getting bigger and more expensive by the day."

"That unaccountable Peers could outnumber elected MPs by two to one if calls for even more appointments are listened to is a shocking state of affairs, and one which must be challenged. Each Lord costs the tax-payer nearly £120k a year. It can't be right that when politicians are talking about reducing the cost of politics, they're set to stuff the upper chamber with yet more party appointees. Too many peers have worked in politics before or are party donors. And it's no surprise that there are always more lining up waiting to join the club.  It can't be allowed to spiral further out of control."

"We urgently need to sort out the House of Lords and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public. The latest affair only goes to show that our democracy shouldn't be left to the discretion of unelected Peers but should be in the hands of voters." 

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s response to questions over the need for reform yesterday, Darren Hughes added: "The Prime Minister’s comments, writing off reform of the Lords and suggesting that dozens more appointments could be on the way, simply beggar belief. The House of Lords is already the second biggest chamber in the world – after China’s upper house – and the only completely unelected upper House in Europe. For the PM to consider adding even more party cronies after yet another round of controversy is frankly shocking."

"It is staggering that the Prime Minister regrets he didn’t reform the Lords in the last Parliament yet says he won’t do it now. These are the kind of cosy and convenient arguments which protect the Westminster club. The public are tired of inaction on this issue, and the PM should lead on this, not cop out. If Mr Cameron gives up on this, we’ll have years more of cronies, donors and party hacks stuffing our oversized, expensive and unelected House."

"The government has a Parliamentary majority – if Mr Cameron wants reform of the Lords, he can do it. Now is the time to stop skirting around the issue and to use the majority in the House in favour of reform to secure a democratically-elected upper chamber. Almost every opposition MP backs an elected upper chamber – not to mention the vast majority of the public who are sick of party hacks and donors being sent to claim their £300 a day. "

"It’s clear that our unaccountable upper chamber needs cleaning up. Instead of regretting a lack of reform in the last Parliament, the Prime Minister should seize the opportunity and do it now."