‘No-vote peers’ rack up £360k in House of Lords fees and expenses

Peers who failed to vote even once claimed more than £100,000 in the last session of parliament alone

David Trayner
Sunday 16 August 2015 16:01
The Electoral Reform Society has branded the House of Lords 'out of date and out of control' (Getty)
The Electoral Reform Society has branded the House of Lords 'out of date and out of control' (Getty)

Peers claimed £360,000 in attendance fees and expenses over the past five years despite failing to take part in any House of Lords votes, new research has found.

A group of 62 peers racked up the huge bill in years they failed to vote even once, a report by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) released claims.

In the last parliamentary session alone, more than £100,000 was claimed by peers who did not vote at all, the report said.

The 10 most expensive ‘silent’ peers account for £236,000 of the expenditure, the campaign group found.

The ERS warned the House of Lords, which costs £93.1million in 2013-14, was 'growing out of control' and 'shockingly out of date and unrepresentative'.

Peers do not have a salary but they can claim £300 for each sitting day they attend the House, as well as limited travel expenses.

Former deputy speaker of the House of Lords, Lord Sewel, resigned last month after a Sun expose

Calls for reform of the House of Lords grew louder after its former deputy speaker, Lord Sewel resigned after he was caught on camera snorting cocaine with prostitutes last month.

The Prime Minister has said the House of Lords should reflect the House of Commons, but he would need to almost double the number of peers from 782 to 1,545 to match their vote share.

And the Lords, which is already the second largest chamber in the world, after China’s, would need to balloon to 8,663 members to exactly match the Commons’ seat share.

The ERS said David Cameron’s intention to appoint 50 more peers over the summer would cost at least £1.3 million a year in expenses and allowances.

The Prime Minister, pictured here with acting Labour Party leader Harriet Harman at the state opening of parliament, has said he regrets failing to reform the House of Lords

The ERS also questioned the independence of peers and the level of outside expertise they bring to the parliamentary process – both common arguments for retaining the Lords.

It revealed 34 per cent of peers used to work in politics, the vast majority of them as MPs or councillors, compared to just 1 per cent in policing, transport or manual and skills trades.

Only one peer, former linen mill worker Baroness Blood, has a manual trade as their former profession – compared to two former royal household staff.

The ERS research found 34 per cent of peers worked in politics and only one has a manual trade as their former profession

Peers who take a political whip vote with their party almost 100 per cent of the time and independent ‘crossbench’ members have much worse voting record. Almost half of crossbench peers voted in 10 or fewer votes during the last session.

Darren Hughes, deputy chief executive of the ERS, said: "This is not a chamber of experts, it's a chamber of professional politicians.

“Our House of Lords looks nothing like the public whose decisions it impacts. Almost half live in London or the South East, while there are just two peers under the age of 40. This is a shockingly out of date and unrepresentative institution.

"The Prime Minister said he 'regrets' not reforming the second House in the last parliament.

“It's time for him to act - and finally fix our broken upper chamber."

No-one from the Cabinet Office was available for comment.

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