Lord Leigh calls for expansion to House of Lords chamber
Addressing colleagues yesterday, Conservative peer Lord Leigh of Hurley made the bewildering claim that a bigger chamber would be more representative. He made his remarks as the Lords debated reform of the archaic upper chamber of Parliament.
Lord Leigh said democracy would be improved if the Lords’s diversity was “deepened and strengthened” by “admitting more members”.
In 2017 a Lords committee report suggested the number of peers should be capped at 600 members.
Willie Sullivan, Senior Director at the Electoral Reform Society, criticised Lord Leigh’s claims as he lashed out at the chamber for being packed with “cronies” who are “skewing our politics and fuelling distrust”.
He told Express.co.uk: “The average size of a second chamber around the world is about 100 members – far slimmer than the bloated House of Lords.
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Lord Leigh’s suggestion has been met with outrage by campaigners
“Even capping the numbers at 600 would mean the Lords would remain the largest revising chamber in the world.
“It is unsurprising to see some peers lobbying for a higher cap on numbers, when the government has failed so dismally match even the current generous target.
“Prime Ministers simply can’t help themselves, and continue to use the Lords as a gift for party donors to vote on our laws for life.
“PMs can appoint unlimited numbers of their friends and cronies, skewing our politics and fuelling distrust.
“We need a leaner, proportionally-elected revising chamber that can’t genuinely stand up for the nations and regions of the UK.
“While some peers work very hard, the lack of accountability means others can turn up and claim expenses without scrutiny.
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Lord Leigh said more peers would make the chamber more representative
“It’s time to move on from an over-sized private member’s club, to give voters the revising chamber we need.”
Yesterday Lord Leigh told colleagues that given plans to cut the House of Commons from 650 members to 600 had been scrapped, plans to cut the upper chamber should also be abandoned.
Lord Leigh asked cabinet office minister Lord True: “Would my noble friend the minister agree that now that the other place has agreed that they will stay at 650, we can review our aspiration of 600 to 650?
“Secondly, to recognise that unlike the other place [The Commons], we are not salaried men, we represent a wide pool of expertise and experience.
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Lord True agreed with his colleague on the Lords’ size
The minister said the Lords should be sized depending on need
“That pool needs to be deepened and strengthened.
“By admitting more members of this House we will counter the allegations, the correct allegations, of underrepresentation of minorities, women, and business people.”
Amid gasps and laughter at the suggestion for across the chamber, Lord True said he supported his colleague’s suggestion.
He said: “I would agree, strongly agree, with him and I suspect that many of the British people would agree that this House needs refreshing from time to time.
“I’m not going to get hung up on any number between 600 and 650, the membership should be appropriate to enable the House of Lords to carry of its role, and carry it out in a way that reflects that role and also the primacy of the House of Commons as the elected Chamber.”
Currently there are 820 peers in the House of Lords, nearly 25 percent more than the 600 target set in 2017.
With just 650 MPs, it also means there are more unelected parliamentarians in the UK than elected.
Boris Johnson has said he remains committed to cutting the six of the upper chamber but made 52 new appointments to the Lords in 2020.