Packing the House of Lords with Tory peers to pass tax credit cuts would cost £2.6m

Peers in their ceremonial ermine cloaks in the House of Lords
Peers in their ceremonial ermine cloaks in the House of Lords

Creating scores of new Conservative peers in the House of Lords to pass tax credit cuts would likely cost millions of pounds, a new analysis suggests.

Peers are set to vote this evening on a number of motions to either significantly delay or kill the Government’s tax credit cuts.

Because the Tories do not have a majority in the House of Lords, a defeat is a real prospect and depends on the votes of unaffiliated crossbench peers.

Some Conservatives have suggested David Cameron use his powers as Prime Minister to stuff the unelected house with his supporters to give the party a majority there.

But new research from the Electoral Reform Society suggests that that creating the 100 peers required for a working majority would cost taxpayers at least £2.6m

The cost has been calculated based on the average expense and allowances claims for peers in the previous parliamentary session: £25,826 a head. This is despite the chamber sitting for only 130 days a year.

The House of Lords’ operating cost per peer when taking account all expenses is actually £118k – meaning the cost could be even higher.

Peers appointed specifically to pass legislation could also be more active than the average peer – some of whom are practically dormant – leading to higher expenses and allowance claims and driving the cost up even higher.

Some Tories have called for the PM to go even further. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said last week that he would support the creation of more than 150 peers to be absolutely sure the Tories could pass whatever legislation they wanted.

“I wouldn't go for 150. I'd go for more than that. You've got to make absolutely sure,” he told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme.

Darren Hughes, deputy chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, which produced the calculations, said the move would be scandalous.

“If the Prime Minister is worried about a constitutional crisis following today’s House of Lords votes, he should reform the chamber so that it’s elected – instead of trying to pack it with pliant Peers,” he said.

“A chamber built on vague conventions and illegitimacy is no way to deal with legislation, and is simply asking for constitutional chaos and confusion.

“An additional 100 Peers would take the Lords to nearly a thousand members, at a cost of at least £2.6m in extra expenses and allowances per year. And the actual cost is likely to be much higher, since that figure doesn’t take into account the increased staffing, office and infrastructure costs 100 extra Peers would entail.

“Adding an extra 100 Tory Lords at a time of austerity would not only be unpalatable but would be frankly scandalous – and a constitutional crisis in its own right. It’s time for real reform – not the undemocratic and partisan packing of our legislature.”

He called for the chamber to be fully reformed and be constituted based on a system of elections.

On Friday the former head of the civil service Lord Butler warned that creating more peers, as Mr Cameron has been advised, would lead to a constitutional crisis.

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