Wednesday 14 October 2020
Abolition of the House of Lords
The petition of residents of the constituency of North Ayrshire and Arran,
Declares that the House of Lords is unrepresentative of and unaccountable to the general UK population, over which it makes decisions and casts votes on important issues; expresses concern at the recent creation of 36 new life peers, increasing the size of the House of Lords to nearly 800 Members, despite the Government’s commitment to reducing the size of the House of Lords; notes that the House of Lords is the largest parliamentary chamber in any democracy; further notes that the House of Lords is one of very few parliamentary bodies in the world with reserved places for members of the clergy; further notes concern over the number of peers that fail to speak in the chamber yet are able to claim expenses, for example in 2016-17 when 115 peers failed to speak even once yet still claimed £1.3 million between them; and further notes concern over the high proportion of members of the House of Lords who were, before their elevation, significant donors to political parties.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to abolish the House of Lords in the interests of democracy, accountability and transparency.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Patricia Gibson, Official Report, 02 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 254 .]
Observations from The Minister for the Constitution and Devolution (Chloe Smith): The Government have no plans to abolish the House of Lords, which has a key role in scrutinising the Executive and as a revising Chamber; it is important that the way it is constituted reflects that role and the primacy of the House of Commons as the elected Chamber. The Conservative 2019 manifesto committed to looking at the role of the Lords, but any reform needs careful consideration, not to be brought forward piecemeal.
The size of the Lords needs addressing, but given retirements and other departures, some new Members are essential to keep the expertise and outlook of the Lords fresh. This will ensure the Lords continues to fulfil its role in scrutinising and revising legislation, whilst respecting the primacy of the Commons and the associated conventions between the two Houses.
Members of the House of Lords are appointed from a wide range of backgrounds, and one of the most valued aspects of the House of the Lords is the expertise and experience that Members are able to bring to the work they do. The relationship between the Church and the state in England is an important part of the constitutional framework which has evolved over centuries. Bishops provide an independent voice and spiritual insight into the work of the upper house. It is also the case that the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC) vets nominations for all life peers, including those recommended by the UK political parties, to ensure the highest standards of propriety.
Members’ allowances are a matter for the House. Most Members do not receive a salary for their parliamentary duties but are eligible to receive allowances and, within certain limits, the travel expenses they incur in fulfilling their parliamentary duties. Peers attend Parliament in a number of ways, including speaking in the Chamber, but also through serving on Committees of the House and voting. The House of Lords Guide to Financial Support for Members lays out a list of activities which constitute “attendance” for which members can claim.
The Government have an aspiration that all parts of the United Kingdom should feel connected to politics and indeed to politicians. We are considering how to further this objective.