Press Notice: for immediate release
Wednesday 20 April 2011
Senior figures call for immediate halt to Lords appointments
Today the Constitution Unit publishes a report, House Full, with the backing of 18 senior parliamentarians and independent experts, including a former Commons Speaker, a former Leader of the Lords, a former Lord Chancellor, and three former members of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. They come from different parties and none, and have differing views on the long-term future of the Lords and its reform, but are united in raising the alarm about the current rate of appointments, and calling for immediate changes.
A draft Lords reform bill is expected shortly after 5 May. But even if it succeeds it will be four years before reform happens. Meanwhile David Cameron has added 117 new peers in less than a year, an unprecedented figure in recent times. The report argues that this has damaged the chamber’s functioning, and that any further increase risks rendering the House unable to do its job. It sets out why the coalition’s aim to establish proportionality between the parties in the Lords is unworkable: requiring 269 additional peers, which would take the chamber’s membership to 1100. It is already 831, up from 666 10 years ago.
The report’s supporters call for three things:
- An immediate moratorium on Lords appointments, to be lifted only when the number of members has dropped below 750. Thereafter 750 should be an absolute cap on its size.
- Allowing retirements from the Lords, as proposed recently by a House of Lords Leader’s Group chaired by Lord Hunt of Wirral.
- Any future appointments to be put on a more transparent and sustainable basis, with the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission determining how many vacancies exist, and inviting nominations from the parties.
Commenting on publication of the report, Constitution Unit Deputy Director Meg Russell said: “It is unusual for a group of such senior figures to come together on a cross-party basis to call for change, but there is huge concern in the House of Lords about this issue. The fear is that David Cameron may unwittingly destroy the Lords through this volume of appointments. We await Lords reform, but in the meantime we must maintain a functional parliament. The risk is that reform fails – as it often has before – but that meanwhile the Lords has become bloated and dysfunctional”.
Notes for editors
- The report House Full is available on the Constitution Unit website at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/publications/tabs/unit-publications/152.pdf. It is written by Meg Russell, with support from Lord Adonis, Graham Allen MP, Baroness Boothroyd, Lord Butler of Brockwell, Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, Lord Dholakia, Baroness D’Souza, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Robert Hazell, Baroness Jay of Paddington, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Norton of Louth, Donald Shell, Lord Steel of Aikwood, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, Baroness Williams of Crosby, Lord Woolf, and Tony Wright.
- Meg Russell is available for interview and can be contacted on 0207 679 4998. In addition, Brian Walker is the Unit’s Press Officer and can be contacted on 07802 176347.
- The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre within the Department of Political Science at University College London.
- All the day’s reaction including the response from Downing Street on the Guardian’s Politics Live blog
- Rapid influx of new peers has made House of Lords too full, report warns The Guardian
- Rise in number of peers ‘has damaged Lords’ Daniel Bentley in the Independent
- House of Lords is full so stop creating peers, David Cameron is told Evening Standard
- BBC Newsnight
- House of Lords full, peers warn David Cameron (BBC Politics)
- Stop making new Lords, political big-wigs urge Cameron (Michael Crick’s blog)