It seems that each new batch of expenses from the House of Lords is yet another scandal. This weekend we saw fresh revelations – and with it, some pretty egregious abuses of the system.
Yesterday the Sunday Times revealed that some Peers are claiming up to £40,000 a year in expenses – while making little or no contributions to debates, committees or questions.
It follows news that former Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza dropped an inquiry into Peers’ claiming without contributing, over concerns it would amount “naming and shaming” fellow Peers.
The Sunday Times’ research however shows that “On average, members of the Lords made 41 spoken or written contributions in the chamber…during the 2015-16 session”. They vote, again on average, on 19 days per parliamentary year – that is, out of 149 parliamentary days.
While some turn up more regularly than others (and meaningfully contribute, too), it’s obviously unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House.
What is highlights is the reality that there is no accountability for Peers – the public can’t kick them out if they fail to serve the interests of citizens.
So it’s no surprise that the cost of Peers claiming is going up. After all, the Lords is stuffed to the brim with party appointees and is growing out of control. With over 800 members, it’s the second largest chamber in the world – after China’s legislature.
The government can no longer ignore this flagrant waste of public funds.
Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House – and that’s a call that’s only likely to grow in the wake of these findings. The BBC’s recent Meet the Lords series – which had Peers admitting some fairly shocking behaviour themselves – is more fuel for the fire too.
What next? These new findings are yet more evidence that we need root and branch reform. Frankly, tinkering just doesn't cut it.
We urgently need to sort out the House of Lords, and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public.
It’s now time to look again at this problem and how to solve it – a proper review. That review has to look at fundamentally changing the structure of our broken upper house.