House of Lords size should be cut by 200 peers, Lords Speaker says

Lord Fowler said it was difficult to justify the size of the upper house

Jon Stone
Tuesday 06 September 2016 11:45
Peers in ceremonial dress
Peers in ceremonial dress

The Speaker of the House of Lords has said the second chamber should be cut in size by at least 200 peers.

Lord Fowler, a former Cabinet minister, said at over 800 peers the size of the Lords was untenable when the House of Commons was heading for a reduction in size.

“I don’t think that we can justify a situation where you have over 800 peers at the same time as you're bringing down the Commons to 600 MPs,” he said in an interview with The House magazine.

“The principle, it seems to me, is that we should have fewer Lords. We should certainly not have more peers than there are Members of Parliament. I think that's a principle that would probably find agreement amongst most of the House.”

Lord Fowler added that there was “a very broad consensus” in favour of reform in the House.

He added that there were “how should I put it? – a few passengers” in the chamber – referring to some peers who barely turn up for debates or votes.

House of Lords reform is not the responsibility of the Lords speaker but he is the most recent relevant voice to throw his support behind change.

The 2010 Coalition government pledged to reform the Lords so that it was elected by a form a proportional representation. The plans, a favourite of the Liberal Democrats, were however sunk by hostile Conservative backbenchers.

The second chamber has consistently foiled government plans on issues like welfare cuts since 2010 – forcing retreats and revisions in many areas.

In August The Sun newspaper reported that Theresa May supported election for the Lords, suggesting she wanted it “elected by the many” rather than “selected by the few”.

The House of Lords currently has 799 sitting peers, compared to 650 elected MPs in the House of Commons.

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