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Unspeakable: The Scandal of Silent Peers in the House of Lords

07/09/2015 18:06 BST | Updated 07/09/2016 10:12 BST

The reputation of the House of Lords is going from bad to worse. Today the Electoral Reform Society revealed new figures that show just how democratically dire the situation has become for our upper chamber.

At the end of August the government announced 45 new Peers, taking the chamber to nearly 830 members - when it's already the second largest upper house in the world.

Today we've released research showing that Peers who have failed to speak in the chamber in the past year in the House of Lords have claimed nearly £1.3m in allowances and expenses. This is, put simply, a national scandal.

Parliament returns from summer recess today with the news that 30 Peers failed to speak during the whole of the last Parliament - yet claimed over three quarters of a million pounds.

All this follows our new report we published two weeks ago, 'House of Lords: Fact vs Fiction', uncovering the crisis of size, cost, unrepresentativeness and the lack of independence in the upper chamber.

Here's what we've found:

  • £1,262,670 has been claimed by 64 Peers in the 2014/15 financial period who have failed to speak in the past year
  • £772,719 was claimed in expenses and allowances by the 30 Peers who failed to speak during the whole of the last Parliament
  • 116 Peers in total have failed to speak once since the start of the 2014 Parliamentary session
  • 55 Peers who failed to speak in the last session voted fewer than five times, claiming £92,075
  • Eight Peers who failed both to speak and vote in the last Parliamentary session (2014-2015) claimed £29,812

All these figures point to one fact: the House of Lords is well and truly bust.

That Peers who failed to speak in the chamber during the whole of the last Parliamentary session claimed three quarters of a million pounds in expenses and allowances is surely a damning indictment on Britain's 'upper' chamber.

In some ways, the figures speak for themselves - almost £100,000 of that was claimed by Peers who voted fewer than five times in the last Parliamentary session, while just eight Peers claimed £30,000 - despite not voting or speaking at all in the last session. The sooner we sort out this mess the better.

Over this past few months we've busted the myths and made the case more strongly than ever for serious reform of Britain's unelected upper chamber.

This is a House that 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.

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.

The Prime Minister says he regrets not reforming the chamber in the last Parliament. Given these new findings, now is the time to act on that and get on with the vital work of ensuring we have a democratic upper House, where the public finally get a say.

Read the ERS' latest report on the House of Lords: 'Fact vs Fiction' here