PLANS to slim down the House of Lords by setting a time limit for new peers would be a “sticking plaster” solution to the real problems of the unelected upper chamber, campaigners said yesterday.
Newly appointed peers would serve for 15 years instead of the current life under plans reportedly being drawn up by a committee of peers working out how to cull the herd.
The Lords is the second-largest legislative body in the world with almost 800 members.
A committee was set up by the Lords Speaker Lord Fowler in December after peers voted unanimously to reduce their numbers. A time limit was one of the ideas.
But the core issue in the “bloated” Lords is a “total lack of democracy and transparency” in how the peers are appointed, which was “explicitly excluded” in the discussion held by the committee, according to Electoral Reform Society (ERS) chief executive Darren Hughes.
He said: “These hyper-cautious proposals are sticking plaster politics, and would do nothing to stop prime ministers packing the chamber with party donors and political friends.
“The light-touch reforms only apply to new peerages, meaning any substantial reduction in size could take decades.
“Nor would the changes go any way to addressing the crisis of representation. Over half of peers are aged over 70, nearly half live in London and the south-east and — contrary to claims of independence — almost all vote solely along party lines.
“So while it’s good they recognise a problem, they have somewhat missed the point.”
He pointed out that the Lords’ gargantuan size was far from the main reason the public has had enough of it.
“They are fed up with repeated expenses scandals, allegations of cronyism and the ludicrous continuation of hereditary peers,” he said.
“And they are sick of the Mother of All Parliaments being viewed as a members’ club for a small elite.”
Last month, the ERS revealed that 115 peers who have not spoken in the Lords for an entire year claimed nearly £1.3 million in expenses and allowances.
The Lords said that speaking in the chamber is not the only way peers hold the government to account.