house of lords

ERS condemn 'ludicrous' hereditary Peer by-election

3rd March 2017
3 Mar 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform
hereditary Peers
hereditary peer by-election
hereditary by-election
Electoral Reform Society
Katie Ghose

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The Electoral Reform Society have described the upcoming hereditary Peer by-election [1] in the House of Lords as a ‘farce’ and ‘the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up’.  

The ‘vote’ will take place in the House of Lords on the 21st March. Peers will decide from a small group of hereditary Lords who will be able to vote in the upper chamber for the rest of their lives – and claim £300 per day.

The vote have been described as ‘the most elitist election in the world’, and follows the passing of Lord Lyell. 

All of the 27 candidates are men and more than half are over 60.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Yet again we are witnessing the farce of a hereditary Peer ‘by-election’ – the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up. There are just 30 voters per candidate in this so-called election. Lords are literally picking their peers from a tiny pool of aristocrats.

“The most bizarre thing is that the electorate of 804 is actually the largest in years – some of the by-elections in the past have had an electorate of three or less [2], a total embarrassment to our politics. Most of the time it is only the handful of current hereditary Peers from each group who can pick a new person to sit in our upper house for the rest of their lives.

“Ending this absurd practice should be addressed urgently. For most people, it is simply astonishing that in the 21st century, a small cadre of hereditary Lords still decide who sits in our legislature and who votes on laws that affect us all.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs that an act to end this ludicrous practice once and for all was dropped by Peers just a few months ago. It was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. This issue must be revisited and tackled as soon as possible, for the sake of faith in our institutions and democracy. Frankly, it makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’.

“Scrapping the hereditary peer system must be the first step in the process of cutting the second largest chamber on Earth down to size – and replacing it with a fairly elected revising chamber that can represent us all.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk 

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-information-office/2017/Notice-by-election-07-02-17.pdf

[2] See here

'Meet the Lords' documentary lays bare 'astonishing and scandalous' situation in upper chamber, say campaigners

21st February 2017
21 Feb 2017
Tags: 
Meet the Lords
house of lords
lords reform
BBC Meet the Lords

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Statement  from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 21st February 2017

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630


Commenting on revelations [1] from the BBC’s ‘Meet the Lords’ series, which will be shown next Monday, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

We already knew some Peers claim their £300 without speaking or voting, but to hear this from the former Lords speaker herself is astonishing and shows just how severe this problem really is. Baroness D’Souza has exposed a truly scandalous situation.

“Since they’re unelected, there is essentially no way to get rid of Peers who do this. The public are sick to death of the kind of behaviour that ‘Meet the Lords’ highlights.

“Our research at the end of 2015 showed that £1.3m was claimed by 64 Peers in the 2014/15 financial period who failed to speak in that year [2]. And Peers who failed to take part in any votes from 2010-2015 claimed £360,000 back from the taxpayer [3]. The situation with the Lords is spiralling out of control, both in terms of size and cost.

“Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House. That call is only likely to grow after this series looks set to lay bare some of the outrageous abuses of privilege in the upper chamber.

“It’s completely unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House, and it highlights 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. Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse.

“This documentary also highlights the farce that is the hereditary peerage system. The practice of holding so-called ‘by-elections’ for hereditary Peers – with only aristocrats able to vote and stand – is an embarrassment to our politics. Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less, which makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’. Scrapping the hereditary peer system would be a start in the process of clearing out our out-dated upper house and the cutting the second largest chamber on Earth (after the People’s Republic of China) down to size.

“This documentary provides yet more evidence that 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.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Notes to Editors

[1] They include the claim from former Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza that a Peer left a taxi waiting outside ­Parliament while he went inside to register for his daily allowance. D’Souza claimed the lord was one of “many, many, many who contribute absolutely nothing, but who claim the full allowance”.

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/press_release/file/House%20of%20Lords%20Research%20PR%20JM%207th%20Sept%202015.pdf

[3] http://news.sky.com/story/peers-claimed-163360k-without-voting-in-lords-10349255

Read the ERS’ ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report on the House of Lords https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/House-of-Lords-Fact-Vs-Fiction-Report.pdf

Lords reform shouldn’t be threat but 'real plan to take back control’, say campaigners

20th February 2017
20 Feb 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
Brexit
Article 50
EU
EU referendum
Article 50 Bill
Brexit Bill

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Electoral Reform Society statement for immediate release, 20th February 2017

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the fact that Peers begin debating the Article 50 Bill today, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s understandable that peers on both sides want to have their say on legislation – after all that is what they are meant to be there for. But it would be wrong for Peers to try and disrupt the Brexit process. The upper chamber simply doesn’t have any legitimacy to scrutinise let alone block legislation given that it is totally unelected.

“Whatever Peers do when it comes to Article 50, serious reform of the Lords has to be on the table – not as a threat in the event that Peers try and amend the Brexit bill, but as a vital step in genuinely ‘taking back control’ for British voters. Lords reform shouldn’t be something that’s just wheeled out to intimidate Peers any time they go against the wishes of government – it should be part of a real plan for democratic reform after Brexit.  

“We do need a revising chamber to scrutinise vital bills like this. But given that the Article 50 bill is of such huge constitutional importance, those voting on it should be chosen by voters themselves.

“It would be a sorry irony indeed if ‘take back control’ meant simply handing power to unelected Lords. A big theme of the EU referendum was democracy, so we need to put those words into practice and bring power back to voters here.  

“Whatever the case, we’d be more than happy to work with the government on reforming the Lords. Just one in ten voters support the current chamber as it is [1] – it’s time for real reform and a fairly-elected upper house.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

ENDS

[1] http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/poll-just-one-ten-think-lords-should-remain-unelected

Dropping plans to end hereditary peer by-elections ‘astonishing,’ say campaigners

9th December 2016
9 Dec 2016
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform
hereditary by-elections
hereditary Peers

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Statement from Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 9th Dec. 2016 

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the House of Lords dropping a Bill to end hereditary peer by-elections today, Will Brett, Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s astonishing that in the 21st century, a handful of hereditary Lords still gets to decide who sits in our legislature. This was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. The fact it has been dropped borders on the comical.

“Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less. It’s an embarrassment to our politics, and the sooner this practice is scrapped the better. Instead, let’s have proper elections that involve the whole public, based on a fair voting system.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] The House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill 2016-17 was dropped by Peers at Committee Stage, midday today, following the government refusing to support it: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/houseoflordsact1999amendment.html

[2] Since the House of Lords Act 1999, the House of Lords ‘elected’ 90 hereditary peers to sit in the House. When one of these hereditary peers dies, a by-election is held. Fewer than 200 people in the whole of the UK are able to vote in or fill those vacancies - those on the ‘Register of Hereditary Peers’. More info here: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/lords/house-of-lords-external-communications/by-elections/

New Lords will cost £1.2m per year, say experts

27th August 2015
27 Aug 2015
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house of lords

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Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement appointing 45 new Peers to the House of Lords, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“At a time when the government is talking about reducing the cost of politics, this announcement is an expensive insult to the public. These new appointments will cost at least £1.2m per year [1], and that’s before increased operating costs are taken into account.

“Today’s further expansion of the Lords – part of the constant arms race to pack the chamber with loyalists, whichever party is in power – shows the system is well and truly bust. The rapid growth in size and cost of our ‘upper chamber’ is a national scandal, and the sooner we sort out this mess the better.

“The Prime Minister says he regrets not reforming the chamber in the last Parliament, and given the escalating cost of the Lords it’s something the Chancellor may be beginning to regret too. So instead of more partisan packing of the Lords, now is the time to do the right thing and get on with the vital work of ensuring we have a democratic upper House, where the public finally get a say.”

For more information and quotes, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, contact Doug Cowan on 07955 148 873, and doug.cowan@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] ERS analysis of House of Lords accounts http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldresource/24/24.pdf

Read our latest report on the House of Lords, ‘Fact vs Fiction’ here: http://electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/its-official-house-lords-completely-...
 

Statement on Lord Hanningfield investigation

17th December 2013
17 Dec 2013
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house of lords

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Statement on Lord Hanningfield investigation

Commenting on the Daily Mirror’s investigation of Lord Hanningfield, Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“When people look at the House of Lords, they see an outdated institution which bears no relation to their own experiences. It’s no wonder people feel alienated from politics when they see peers clocking on for £300 a day and clocking off shortly after. After all, who’d be able to get away with that in normal life?

“The convention in Westminster is that Lords reform is dead for the foreseeable future. But that overlooks the fact there are now so many peers that it’s become completely unsustainable. As the second chamber swells beyond its capacity to do its job properly, reform is coming back on the agenda whether the party leaders like it or not.

"There are currently Lords reform proposals doing the rounds which at least end the absurd anachronism that convicted criminals are allowed to keep their peerages. But most members of the public are shocked when they find out that criminals can still be Lords, and dealing with this one aspect of the out of date second chamber is just tinkering at the edges. We need a complete overhaul of the House of Lords - we need to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

“In an era when more and more people are turning away from politics, it’s vital that we refresh our institutions so that they’re fit for purpose in the 21st century. The House of Lords is an anachronism which gives people lucrative and comfortable jobs for life. An elected House of Lords would allow the public to hold their lawmakers to account – and that’s what democracy is all about.”


Is this the end of democracy for the Lords?

3rd August 2012
3 Aug 2012
Tags: 
lords reform
house of lords
second chamber

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Is this the end of democracy for the Lords?

News today that the Prime Minister plans to shelve Lords reform “threatens to make Britain a laughing stock in the eyes of the rest of the democratic world”, says the Electoral Reform Society’s Katie Ghose.

At a time when London is hosting nations from all over the world for the Olympics this is not how we would want ‘the Mother of Parliaments’ to be projected”

Katie argues

“If you hold the power to help decide how Britain is run you should be elected by us, the British public. That’s democracy.”

After 100 years of debate all three parties had finally committed to reaching an agreement on Lords reform, backed up by evidence that around eight in ten Britons (79%) support the idea of reforming the House of Lords¹. However since the bill was announced petty in-fighting has threatened to derail the process.

Katie continues

We live in a country where over half our politicians are unelected. This reform is vital for Britain to hold its head up as a modern democracy but it is being sabotaged by MPs who think it will work against their own interests.

The second chamber makes laws about life in Britain, it should belong to the British public and not be a play-thing for politicians to use in their squabbling with each other.

The constant backroom deals and speculation around what might be traded for Lords reform has a whiff of corruption about it that leaves voters dazed and confused and shows how out of touch our political class has become.”

The debate around Lords reform has been intensely political with the reform being seen as a bargaining chip within the coalition. Talk has already begun on what the Conservatives may offer the Liberal Democrats in its place.

Katie concludes

Talk of trade offs on party funding, jobs in ministerial reshuffles and boundary changes all leave the strong impression that the last group of people being considered in this debate are the citizens these politicians are meant to be serving.

If Lords reform is dropped it will be clear that this government is not interested in improving our democracy unless it suits the narrow, fleeting interests of those Ministers who signed up for change just two short years ago.”

ENDS

Notes to editors
1. Ipsos MORI House of Lords reform poll Published:19 July 2012
2. For more information about the Electoral Reform Societies campaign for Lords reform.

Pick up the phone, and end 100 years of unfinished business

27th June 2012
27 Jun 2012
Tags: 
lords reform
second chamber
house of lords

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Pick up the phone, and end 100 years of unfinished business

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the historic publication of the Lords Reform bill, and has called on Labour and Liberal Democrats to act responsibly and prevent a fatal impasse over the timetable.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society commented:

For the first time in history we have a government pressing ahead armed with a clear mandate to deliver on Lords Reform.

Government and opposition now need to act responsibly, as any bun fight over the timetable could now prove fatal. The Labour Party have offered what looks like an olive branch, the onus is now on the Liberal Democrats to work out how to use it.

If Miliband and Clegg could just pick up the phone we could wrap up 100 years of unfinished business.”

The Lords Reform Bill in brief

  • The final House will be 462 members (360 elected, 90 appointed).
  • Elections to be held at same time as General Election.
  • The transition will take place over three elections.

The Electoral Reform Society welcomes the fact that the bill makes provisions for

  • Ensuring diversity: Appointments Commission criteria for selection confirms ‘the desirability of the appointed members collectively reflecting the diversity of the population of the United Kingdom and having a range of experience and expertise’.
  • Safeguarding accountability. The bill includes arrangements for disqualification, expulsion, suspension and resignation and ensures Lords can’t stand as MPs for 4 years after their term in the Lords finished.
  • Sensible remuneration arrangements. The salary for peers is not to be above an MPs and elected Lords will be ordinary residents for tax purposes so will no longer receive their pay tax free.

ENDS

For more information contact the media office on mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or call 020 7202 8601.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.
  2. Find out more about our work at http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk
  3. House of Lords Reform Bill: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0052/1305...
  4. Today’s YouGov poll on House of Lords Reform: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/s9zuj152zl/YG-Archives-Yo...

Give us the right to hand the Lords their jobs

22nd June 2012
22 Jun 2012
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform
constitutional reform

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Give us the right to hand the Lords their jobs

The Independent's recent series The Lords Exposed claims that 'radical proposals to reform the House of Lords are set to shine a light on those peers with low participation in debates or votes'.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society comments:

We have the largest and worst attended second chamber on earth. The fact that the current Lords can inherit or buy a place in the British parliament is simply an embarrassment and clearly means that many are not taking their responsibilities to the British public seriously. Giving us the right to hand them their jobs would help to remind them who they’re working for.

While many people are worrying about paying the bills, it’s absurd that these unelected politicians can choose whether to bother turning up, then claim £300 and go home again. It's time for a more effective and efficient House of Lords that can actually represent British voters.

Can the politicians put self interest aside on Lords reform?

9th May 2012
9 May 2012
Tags: 
lords reform
house of lords
constitutional reform
elected lords

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Can the politicians put self interest aside on Lords reform?

The Queen has today announced that reforming the House of Lords will form part of her parliament’s agenda over the coming months but independent campaign group the Electoral Reform Society ask whether self interested politicians are poised to derail a reform that’s been 100 years in the making.

The debate on Lords reform has been clouded by in-fighting between politicians on all sides but polling since 2000 has shown that between 54-82% of the public have supported the need for an elected House of Lords. A recent You Gov poll found that 69% of people supported the principle of an elected second chamber with only 5% wanting the status quo.


Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

 

We welcome the government’s pledge to legislate on reform of the upper house. But Lords Reform will take more than words; it will require action. 

If you hold the power to help decide how Britain is run you should be elected by us, the British public - that’s democracy. The public know it, so how long can a small privileged clique of politicians afford to fool themselves?’

‘In the current economic climate to be handed a job for life because your father was a lord, and to be able to turn up, claim £300 and go home again, is quite simply an embarrassment.’

Recent discussion has focused on the time Lord reform will take up in the parliamentary calendar. Katie continues

 

Hearing politicians bewailing the time it will take to pass Lords reform, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it is their petty in-fighting that will prolong the process.

There is no reason for this process to be drawn out. MPs from the three main parties were elected on a commitment to Lords reform, the proposals are backed up by consensus from a century of debate and public opinion is behind an elected second chamber.

‘If we blow this opportunity now we’re going to end up spending another hundred years of our parliament’s time trying to undo that mistake. We cannot allow the turkeys to veto Christmas. Politicians’ self interest must not be allowed to waste any more of our time.’

ENDS


Notes to Editors

  1. Since 1999 both chambers of parliament have together spent over 140 hours debating Lords reform
  2. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.
  3. To find out more visit http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk