Tell this inquiry what you think about our bloated upper chamber
An inquiry by the Lord Speaker’s committee is looking at how to shrink our bloated upper chamber.
This week the Daily Mirror have launched a push for readers and members of the public to speak their minds on cutting the House of Lords down to size.
As the Mirror says:
“The unelected Second Chamber is bursting at the seams with 807 peers, including mega-rich party donors, political time-servers and leaders’ cronies.”
In 2015 the paper delivered a petition to Downing Street more than 10,000 readers’ letters calling for an end to the unelected chamber.
Now a month-long consultation on slashing the number of Peers is underway, and concrete plans look set to be handed to Peers and MPs in an official report after the consultation has heard views.
Why does it matter? Well, with over 800 Peers to just 650 MPs (soon to be 600), unelected lawmakers already outnumber our elected representatives. The current upper house is grossly oversized and just keeps growing further out of control.
David Cameron appointed 190 Lords in his six years and more appointments are no doubt in the pipeline under Theresa May. All parties end up packing the House with yet more Peers, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown together making more than 400 appointments during their time in office.
The costs for our democracy and for taxpayers are huge: in the 2010-2015 parliament, £360,000 was claimed by Peers in years they failed to vote once, while in the 2014 Parliamentary session over £100,000 was claimed by Peers who did not vote at all. This has to stop.
This inquiry marks a step towards a reformed upper house, but it’s essential it isn’t just window-dressing. Voters want a smaller second chamber – but they also want to be able to choose who votes on their laws and kick out those who are failing them.
It’s disappointing that the inquiry won’t be accepting submissions about whether Peers should be elected or appointed. The size and composition of the Lords go hand in hand: it’s bloated because there’s a constant incentive for PMs to pack it with party donors and advisers.
Nonetheless, ending the practice of holding so-called ‘by-elections’ for hereditary Peers – with only aristocrats able to vote and stand – would be a start.
Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less, which is an embarrassment to our politics. And getting rid of Peers who consistently fail to turn up would also be welcome, alongside beefing up the Appointments Commission and introducing term limits.
All this can be done as a stepping stone towards a properly reformed second chamber.
So this is your chance to influence the Lords’ future. After thousands signed the Mirror’s petition in 2015 calling for an end to an unelected upper chamber, we hope you’ll use this opportunity so that we can move towards the kind of parliament that voters expect and deserve.
Katie Ghose is chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society. Follow her on TwitterSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.