Press Release: Lords appointments urgently need regulation: Constitution Unit
1 August 2013
Today's appointments to the House of Lords - with 30 new peers announced - again demonstrates the urgent need for regulation of prime ministerial patronage powers, says Constitution Unit Deputy Director and Lords expert Meg Russell.
The appointments (14 Conservative, 10 Liberal Democrat, 5 Labour and 1 Green) take the eligible membership of the Lords to 785, but with 53 peers temporarily disqualified or on leave of absence, the potential membership of the chamber has reached 838. This is a new post-1999 high, and 172 members larger than 13 years ago - as shown in the chart below.
Lords membership 2000 - August 2013 (all other figures are for January)
Commenting on today's appointments, Meg Russell said: 'Until some formal regulation of appointments to the House of Lords is introduced, the size of the chamber will grow and grow. Each Prime Minister seeks to boost their own side, and counteract appointments by their predecessors. But as appointments are for life, this means people arriving in the chamber in far greater numbers than they depart it'.
Options for regulation (as set out by Dr Russell recently in evidence to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, and in a high profile report published in 2011 following Cameron's early appointments) include:
- Introducing an absolute size cap for the House of Lords;
- Requiring Prime Minister to appoint on a 'one in, one out' basis (or a 'one in, two out' basis if the chamber is to ever reduce in size);
- Agreeing a written formula for party balance among appointments (probably based on general election vote shares);
- Giving new power to the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission to police the system.
Meg Russell commented 'Something must be done, as the current system of appointments is unsustainable. It also gives huge patronage power to the Prime Minister. It is urgent to agree a maximum size for the chamber, and the appropriate formula for sharing out appointments, and to have an independent body to police this. Until then, the Lords will continually rise in both size and cost'.
Notes for editors
- The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre based in the Department of Political Science at University College London.
- Unit Deputy Director Meg Russell published her new book on the contemporary House of Lords two weeks ago, on 17 July.
- In 2011, the Unit published a high profile report "House Full", signed by 18 senior figures, calling for regulation of Lords appointments:
- Meg Russell's gave evidence on the need to regulate Lords appointments to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on 27 June.
- Meg Russell is available for interview: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02076794977