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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why we need to abolish the bloated, undemocratic House of Lords

Along with the introduction of a proportional voting system the creation of an elected second chamber to complement the House of Commons is the missing link in UK constitutional reform that needs to be addressed.

There are currently about 800 members who are eligible to take part in the work of the House of Lords. The majority are life peers and have therefore been appointed as a result of political patronage. That is an unwieldy and unworkable body. It is little wonder that a large number rarely, if ever show their face in the chamber.

According to the Independent, Peers who have barely spoken in the House of Lords for an entire year have claimed more than £7m in expenses and allowances. They report on an Electoral Reform Society analysis which found that 115 peers – around one in seven – failed to speak at all in debates during the 2016-17 session, despite claiming more than £1.3m in attendance fees.

They add that nearly half of the 798 peers made 10 contributions or fewer in the same year, claiming £7.3m, while some £4m was pocketed by 277 members who spoke five times or fewer. Claimants included Northern Ireland peer Lord Laird, who got £48,000 in expenses despite only voting twice, and steel magnate Lord Paul who spoke twice while claiming £38,000 in expenses.

Work is ongoing to draw up proposals to reduce the size of the Lords, but that is effectively just tinkering with the system. We need to rid the UK of this bloated, undemocratic body and replace it with a democratically elected second chamber which reflects the geographical make-up of the UK and which is at least accountable to the people who pay for it.
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