Boris Johnson ‘undoing progress’ on Lords reform by packing red benches with new peers

Committee calls for legal limit on appointments to Upper House

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 09 May 2021 11:36
Today's daily politics briefing

A House of Lords committee has called for a legal limit on numbers of new peerages, after Boris Johnson was accused of stuffing the red benches of the Upper House with his cronies.

And the cross-party panel said that plans to cut the size of the Lords should be accelerated, including by ending the system of by-elections to replace hereditary peers.

Theresa May agreed in 2017 to a voluntary restraint on appointments to the House of Lords, as part of a “two out one in” system designed to reduce the size of the second chamber to 600 over a decade.

But her successor Mr Johnson was today accused of “undoing” the effort by appointing 79 new peers in less than two years in office compared to 43 by Ms May over a three-year period.

The appointments - including his Brexit negotiator David Frost, aide Eddie Lister, donor Peter Cruddas and brother Jo Johnson - brought the total number of peers above 830, maintaining the House of Lords’ position as the second largest legislative chamber in the world after China’s National People’s Congress.

In a report today, the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House said that the voluntary approach was “too vulnerable to political events” and should now be replaced by a legal limit on appointments.

Committee chair Lord Burns said:“The evidence shows that a voluntary approach is no longer working and any progress that has been made is being undone by too many appointments. 

“A new approach is therefore required if we are to make serious progress in this area.”

The committee found that plans to reduce the number of existing peers were being implemented as set out in 2017, with 119 leaving during that period.

But it said that in the same time, there have been 113 new appointments, nearly double the Committee’s recommended limit of 60.

The Lord Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, said:“Lord Burns and his committee have done important work and have proposed practical solutions to address the size of the House.

“As Lord Speaker, I plan to raise these issues at the highest level. Now is the time to redouble our efforts and accelerate progress, not to give up. Ultimately, a smaller and more effective House will be of greater benefit to the public we are here to serve.”

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