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New Peers

Volume 558: debated on Tuesday 12 February 2013

1. What estimate he has made of the cost of implementing the section of the coalition agreement on the creation of new peers. (142512)

As stated in the programme for government, appointments will be made to the House of Lords with the objective of creating a second Chamber that reflects the share of the vote secured by the political parties at the last general election. Any costs associated with appointing new Members will be in line with the current system. The responsibility for increasing the size of the House of Lords must, of course, lie with those who rejected the opportunity to move to a smaller, more legitimate House.

In May 2010, there were 735 peers, whereas as of yesterday there were 810. The Deputy Prime Minister has just indicated that he still wishes to maintain the coalition agreement proposal to increase the number of peers to reflect the votes at the previous general election. How many more peers does he intend to appoint? Will that include United Kingdom Independence party peers and, potentially, even British National party peers, which I would certainly oppose?

As I have said before, we intend to do what the programme for government sets out; we will be making appointments with the objective of creating a second Chamber that reflects the share of the vote of the political parties represented in this House. But we had a proposal before us—we all know what happened—to make the House of Lords both smaller and more legitimate, and it did not make progress.

The previous Government were in a minority in the other place, whereas this Government have a de facto majority of 68 there. Given that they have suffered 64 defeats and counting in the other place, would the Deputy Prime Minister not be better served by trying to improve the quality of the legislation that he proposes, rather than packing the other place with more and more client peers? We would get better laws as a result.

As a matter of fact, there are more Labour peers than peers of any other party in the House of Lords. Under the last Labour Government, 173 Labour peers were created—that was just under half the total. That is not a record of which the Labour party should be proud.

With all due respect to the Deputy Prime Minister, he is talking absolute tosh. The vote on the Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill got the biggest parliamentary majority of this Parliament. It was because he did not want to give the Bill full scrutiny in this House that he did not proceed; it was his decision, was it not, to abandon the Bill?

No, I think the hon. Gentleman is reinventing history. The decision was taken not to proceed with the timetable motion and that was why the Bill did not proceed. He knows the precise reasons why that decision was taken.

Given that under the Labour Government 391 peers were created—and selected, in many cases—by the then Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), can my right hon. Friend think of any reasons why the Opposition want to keep the House of Lords frozen the way they left it, rather than allowing it to reflect how the country voted?

My hon. Friend asks a good question. Given Labour’s record in packing the House of Lords for political advantage, it is extraordinary that Labour Members should now seek to lecture others about the reform of the other place, which they baulked at delivering when they had the opportunity to do so.

If a party currently in government were to get annihilated at a general election, should it then keep its peers in the House of Lords, as the numbers would not then be reflective of the position in the House of Commons?

The only thing that is going to be annihilated is the argument for independence for Scotland, which is gaining no currency among the people of Scotland, because the vast majority of people in Scotland and elsewhere want to keep the United Kingdom together.