POLITICS

House Of Lords Expenses Show 'Couch-Potato' Peers Claimed £1.3m Despite Not Having Spoken For A Year

'A national embarrassment.'

21/09/2017 00:01
PA Wire/PA Images

The taxpayer has paid “couch-potato peers” who have not spoken in the House of Lords for over a year almost £1.3m in expenses, according to the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

The think-tank’s research reveealed 115 peers failed to speak in the chamber at all in 2016/17 - but still claimed an average of £11,091 each.

Figures showed 18 peers failed to take part in a single vote - yet still claimed £93,162.

And peers who voted ten times or fewer claimed £1,032,653 in total.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the ERS, said the data showed the Lords was now a “rolling expenses scandal”.

“These figures are a damning indictment of the state of the House of Lords. There appears to be a growing ‘something for nothing’ culture in our upper house, with tidy sums being claimed by those who barely contribute,” he said.

“And there are a worrying number of couch-potato peers and lobby-fodder Lords at a time when there is plenty to scrutinise – ostensibly the upper chamber’s role.”

He added: “Huge amounts of money are going to the people who contribute the least. This is an outrageous situation.

“We need to move to a much smaller upper chamber – one that is properly accountable – so that the Lords is no longer seen as a retirement home for party donors but something fit for the Mother of all Parliaments.”

Liberal Democrat Leader in Lords Dick Newby said the revelations made it “clear the House of Lords is in need of radical reform”.

Pete Wishart, the SNP’s Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, said the report proved the Lords was a “national embarrassment ripe for abolition”.

However a spokesman for the House of Lords rejected the findings and said it ignored all the work peers did outside the chamber itself.

“The Electoral Reform Society’s calculations are undermined by their narrow focus on spoken contributions,” the spokesman said.

“Speaking in the Chamber is only one of the ways Members hold the Government to account and this research ignores Members’ contributions including amending legislation, asking the Government written questions and serving on Select Committees – more than 320 Members served on Committees in the last session of Parliament - as well as Parliamentary work away from the Chamber.

“It is inaccurate to describe a House that tabled 5,608 amendments to legislation, asked Government 7,395 written questions and published 170 Committee reports in 2016/17 as a ‘part time’ House. The Lords is an active and effective revising Chamber.”

John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, earlier this month said the House of Lords should be cut in half.

“One can argue the toss about the size of the House of Commons, but as far as the House of Lords is concerned, it’s frankly patently absurd that the House of Lords is significantly larger than the House of Commons,” he said.

In the 2016/17 session of parliament, there were 779 members of the Lords - compared to 650 MPs.

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