Stop making new lords, political big-wigs urge Cameron
A cross-party group of political big-wigs, including many senior members of the House of Lords, is calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to stop creating new peers.
Mr Cameron has created 117 new members of the Lords since becoming prime minister last May, a faster rate of elevation than any PM in British history.
What is more, this expansion has occurred at the same time his government has legislated to reduce the size of the House of Commons by 50 members, from 650 to 600.
The group, who have put their names to a pamphlet called "House Full" published by the Constitution Unit at University College, London, includes the former cabinet secretary Lord (Robin) Butler, the former lord chancellor, Lord Mackay, the former Commons speaker Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, the former lord chief justice Lord Woolf and Lord Stevenson, who used to chair the Lords Appointments Commission.
Other supporters include David Steel, Margaret Jay and Michael Forsyth, who are also peers.
The Lords now has 831 members, though only 792 are currently entitled to attend and vote. These figures are far greater than at any time since the reforms of 1999 when most hereditary peers were excluded from the upper chamber, and there were only 666 members.
"There is now a major concern that if appointments continue, the House of Lords will simply cease to be able to function," the group says.
The high numbers put a huge strain on resources, they say, make it difficult to manage debates and other business, and there are too many new peers who are unfamiliar with Lords culture, procedures and practices.
The group says a moratorium should be placed on new appointments until membership falls, through deaths, to 750 members.
On recent trends of about 15-20 deaths a year, that would entail a ban on new peers for five years or more.
"Until the size of the chamber has dropped below 750 eligible members, the House of Lords should simple be considered 'full'," the authors write. After that appointments should only be made to maintain the number up to 750.
This would mean that the coalition would have to drop its pledge in the May 2010 Coalition Agreement to make future appointments with the goal that membership of the Lords reflects the proportion of votes achieved by each party at the 2010 election.
That could require as many as 1142 peers, estimates the report's main author, Meg Russell of the Constitution Unit.