House of Lords: Report to recommend ways of reducing peers

  • 31 October 2017
  • From the section UK Politics
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House of Lords

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The House of Lords plays an important role in scrutinising and revising government legislation

Proposals to reduce the House of Lords from its current size of nearly 800 peers will be published later.

Ex-civil servant and cross-bench peer Lord Burns has been asked to consider ways of slimming down the Upper Chamber by its Speaker Lord Fowler.

Unconfirmed reports suggest he might recommend a retirement age for peers or a 15-year term limit for new members.

With 799 eligible members, the Lords is the world’s second largest legislative body after China’s People’s Congress.

New rules came into force in 2014 making it easier for peers to retire when they are no longer able to attend or want to concentrate on other matters.

More than 30 peers have retired in the past 18 months, include theatre impresario Lord Lloyd-Webber, former deputy Labour leader Lord Hattersley and former home secretary Lord Hurd.

Despite this, critics say that the Lords remains bloated, with 252 Conservatives, 199 Labour peers, 100 Liberal Democrats, 181 crossbenchers, 24 bishops and 43 others.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has called it “absurd” that the unelected House of Lords is substantially larger than the 650-member elected House of Commons and has said he thinks its membership should be cut in half to about 400.

All but 92 hereditary peers were removed from the Lords in 1999 but subsequent attempts at reforms since then, including calls for direct elections for some members, have foundered.

Announcing the review in December, Lord Fowler said it would not be an “easy task” but if the issue could be settled “the public will be better able to recognise the true value of the House”.

The former Conservative minister is expected to make a short statement following the publication of the report at 14:30 GMT although peers will not debate its recommendations until a later date.

Lord Burns was the most senior civil servant in the Treasury for much of the 1990s before moving into the private sector, chairing Abbey National, Marks & Spencer and Channel 4.

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