House of Lords: David Cameron warned new intake of peers will undermine effectiveness and cost taxpayer more than £1m

Fears that further expansion will deal fresh blow to the chamber's credibility

Nigel Morris
Monday 17 August 2015 21:33
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Up to 50 new peers are expected to be named, boosting the membership of the Upper Chamber to around 830
Up to 50 new peers are expected to be named, boosting the membership of the Upper Chamber to around 830

The appointment of a new group of political donors, former MPs and party apparatchiks as peers will deal a fresh blow to the credibility and effectiveness of the House of Lords and leave the taxpayer more than £1m out of pocket, David Cameron has been warned.

Up to 50 new peers are expected to be named within the next fortnight, boosting the membership of the Upper Chamber to around 830.

The Lords is already the world’s second biggest legislative chamber after the Chinese National People’s Congress and on current trends its membership could be close to 1,000 by the next general election.

Critics claimed the appointments would leave the Lords “bursting at the seams”, with not enough space to accommodate the ermine-clad new arrivals, and add to its daily running costs.

The large majority of the new peers will be Conservative nominees as the Prime Minister attempts to erode the anti-Government majority in the Lords and honour some of his party’s longest-standing supporters.

A clutch of ex-ministers are expected to be ennobled, including the former Foreign Secretary William Hague, the former chief whip Sir George Young and the former universities minister David Willetts.

They are set to be joined by Kate Fall, the Prime Minister’s deputy chief of staff, and two Tory special advisers, Philippa Stroud and Simone Finn.

Several wealthy business figures will also be elevated to the Lords, notably James Lupton, an investment banker who is the party’s joint treasurer, and Michelle Mone, the founder of the Ultimo lingerie company.

Although the Liberal Democrats lost all but eight of their MPs at the election, the party veterans Sir Menzies Campbell, Sir Alan Beith and Sir Malcolm Beith are in line to exchange their knighthoods for peerages. Labour will make a handful of appointments, with former Cabinet ministers David Blunkett, Alistair Darling and Peter Hain heading to the red benches. Spencer Livermore, who was Ed Miliband’s campaigns director, is also tipped for the Lords.

The announcement of the dissolution honours, which follows the end of a Parliament, had originally been expected late last month, but was delayed in the wake of Lord Sewel’s resignation after he was caught on film allegedly taking cocaine in the company of prostitutes. The scandal revived calls for reforms to the Upper House, with suggestions including introducing a mandatory retirement age for peers and tougher rules on claiming allowances.

Mr Cameron was challenged to put new appointments on hold, but he insisted he was pressing ahead with the aim of rebalancing the political composition of the Lords, which contains 226 Tories, 212 Labour peers, 101 Liberal Democrats and 179 Crossbenchers.

“I’m not proposing to get there in one go, but it is important to make sure the House of Lords more accurately reflects the situation in the House of Commons and that’s been the position of prime ministers for a very, very long time and for very good and fair reasons,” he said last month.

But Meg Russell, of the Constitution Unit at University College London, said Mr Cameron had proved far more willing than any of his predecessors to send people to the Lords. During his first spell in Downing Street as head of the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition he nominated around 100 peers.

“His rate of appointments has been so fast that the size of the chamber is going up in a completely unsustainable way. It is unjustified,” she said.

“One of the reasons he has got a problem with the place is that he appointed so many Liberal Democrats. Cameron is probably going to be the first prime minister to make appointments to the Lords to counterbalance the appointments he made.”

Dr Russell argued that the flood of new arrivals was undermining the effectiveness of the Lords. “It’s overcrowded. It’s getting harder to be called in debates. People are more fractious. They haven’t got the office space, the library space, the restaurants are overcrowded. They are bursting at the seams.”

The Electoral Reform Society claimed that appointing the new tranche of peers would cost at least £1.3m a year.

“It’s already a super-sized second chamber. It’s going to be another devastating blow to our democracy to have it packed with a further 50 or so peers,” said Katie Ghose, its chief executive. “Because peers can’t be evicted, hundreds more party appointees have to be brought in to rebalance the chamber, so you have this inexorable cycle.”

How foreign chambers square up

Germany

The 69 members of the Bundesrat are delegates from state governments. There have been calls in the past to replace the second chamber with a directly elected US-style senate.

Canada

Members of the Senate are appointed by the Governor General, with the four major regions assigned 24 members each and the smaller regions raising the total to 105. There have been calls to increase the number of senators and regions within the senate to 117 members and five regions.

Italy

The Senate of the Republic consists of 315 elected members with the addition this year of six senators for life who must be over 40 and elected only by those over 25.

The new intake

Tories

Kate Fall

One of David Cameron’s inner circle, Ms Fall is the deputy chief of staff who controls daily access to the Prime Minister. She has known him since they both studied at Oxford University.

James Lupton

Lupton, one of the most generous Tory donors, has given the party £2.5m. The multimillionaire investment banker is the Conservatives’ joint treasurer and took charge of raising cash for the election campaign.

David Willetts

Dogged by the nickname “two brains”, Willetts spent 23 years as the MP for Havant, culminating in a four-year spell as the Universities minister.

William Hague

Hague returned to the front line under Cameron after an unhappy four years as party leader. He spent more than four years as Foreign Secretary and became one of the Prime Minister’s most trusted allies.

Simone Finn

Spent five years as a special adviser to the former Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, working on reform of unions and the Civil Service. She failed to be adopted for a safe Tory seat at the election.

Philippa Stroud

A long-standing ally of the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, first as the driving force behind his Centre for Social Justice and most recently as his special adviser.

Liberal Democrats

Sir Alan Beith

After by-election win in 1973, he remained MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed for 42 years. He served for 11 years as deputy Liberal Democrat leader and chaired the Commons Justice Select Committee.

Sir Menzies Campbell

The former Olympic athlete became a respected Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs but endured a turbulent 21 months as party leader which ended with his resignation.

Sir Malcolm Bruce

Sir Malcolm, the MP for Gordon in Aberdeenshire for 32 years, stood down before the election. As deputy Liberal Democrat leader, he is one of the stalwarts of the parliamentary party.

Labour

Peter Hain

Hain rose to prominence as an anti-apartheid campaigner in the 1970s. He served the Blair and Brown Cabinets, with two spells as Welsh Secretary. His bid to become deputy Labour leader failed.

Spencer Livermore

Worked as Gordon Brown’s strategy director but they fell out over Brown’s failure to call an election in 2007. He has advised Labour leaders on four election campaigns, most recently in May.

David Blunkett

As Education Secretary and Home Secretary, he was one of the big beasts of the Blair years, and was even touted as a Labour leader. Blunkett quit in May after 23 years serving Sheffield Brightside.

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