UK Politics

House of Lords 'should be smaller than Commons'

Members of House of Lords Image copyright Getty Images

Two members of the House of Lords have joined calls for the upper house to be made smaller then the House of Commons.

Conservative peer Lord Norton and crossbench peer Baroness Deech said it should be reduced to around 600 members, down from the current 826.

David Cameron has been accused of "cronyism" after the appointment of 45 new peers, which include 26 former Tory ministers and aides.

The PM has said there is "no point" reviving efforts to reform the House.

A number of the MPs who have chosen to accept the new positions have previously campaigned for the Lords to be reformed. They say they will now fight for change from within the unelected chamber.

Full list of new peers and other honours

Analysis: Does size matter?

Image caption MP Don Foster says he will accept the "ludicrous" peerage despite being completely opposed to the House of Lords

Lord Norton and Baroness Deech told BBC Radio 4's Today programme they would like to see the House of Lords have fewer members than the House of Commons, which has 650 MPs.

Baroness Deech said it was becoming increasingly difficult to get work done because of "too many people trying to be heard".

"The place is simply overcrowded to an extent that you can't do your job properly," she said.

"You have to queue for two hours to be able to get an oral question tabled."

'Donors and bag-carriers'

Lord Norton said the Lords was looking at a number of options to reduce its size, such as having a retirement age limit, but also needed to consider how members are appointed.

Both peers called for a statutory appointments commission to be set up to approve nominations.

Baroness Deech said this would ensure "no more donors and bag carriers" are appointed as it "doesn't look good".

She added that recent scandals - such as the resignation of Lord Sewell following allegations of drug taking - were "putting a nail in the coffin of our respectability, if not our durability".

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Image caption Entrepreneur Michelle Mone is among those to be ennobled

The SNP has branded the 45 new peers as "a sorry list of rejected politicians, cronies and hangers-on with big chequebooks".

Former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, who has fought for Lords reform, said he was taking up his Lords seat so he could argue his case from within the House.

Meanwhile, former Bath MP Don Foster said he will join the "ludicrous" and "grubby" second chamber despite being completely opposed to it.

But he denied it was hypocritical to accept the life peerage.

"I want to get rid of it and the only way in the current system of getting rid of it, is having people there who will do just that. It's not hypocrisy at all."

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Media captionSir Menzies Campbell said he intends to "argue the case for reform in the House of Lords itself"

The list has also not met with much approval in Friday's newspapers.

The Independent said the list of new peerages "shame Britain" while the Daily Mirror and the Telegraph both criticise the selection of Tory MP Douglas Hogg, who was found to have claimed parliamentary expenses for getting the moat at his manor house cleaned.

The Daily Express berates the failure to appoint a single new UKIP peer, despite the 4m votes cast in the general election for the party.

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Who is in the House of Lords?

Image copyright PA
  • The new appointments take the total number of eligible members to 826
  • In 2014/15 the average daily attendance was 483 peers
  • Members who certify that they have carried out "appropriate Parliamentary work" in Westminster are entitled to claim a tax-free daily allowance of £300
  • They can chose to claim a lower rate of £150 for work away from Westminster or official visits
  • According to the latest House of Lords Annual Report, net operating costs for the chamber totalled £94.4m for 2014/15
  • Of this, £20.7m was spent on members' allowances and expenses

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