House of Lords problem?

The UK's upper chamber is packed with unelected cronies

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What's the problem with the House of Lords?

By Joe Harker

Boris Johnson has come under fire for his recent appointments to the House of Lords.

The prime minister has said he wants to reduce the size of Westminster's upper chamber, though naming 36 new peers to it is hardly likely to help in this respect.

Among those he has elevated to a peerage are Brexiteer allies, Tory party donors and his own brother, so you might see the problem with putting these people in positions of political power for life.

The Claim:

Lord speaker Norman Fowler has told the prime minister off for making a "mass" of new peers, having decried the size of the House of Lords as "ridiculous".

Almost 100 peers appear to pretty much do nothing, while 46 have never recorded a vote.

When the second chamber, designed to scrutinise bills and policies which are voted through the House of Commons, is stacked with old allies of the prime minister then it becomes a bastion of cronyism.

Already too large and growing larger, the House of Lords is likely irredeemable in its current form. It needs ripping up and replacing with something else, with a new set of rules dictating appointments and practices.

There is little wrong with an unelected, technocratic upper chamber which is packed with the expertise necessary to scrutinise policies, making it essentially an apolitical organisation, but membership of the House of Lords is so blatantly subject to the whims of the current prime minister.

The Counter Claim:

Writing in the Financial Times, Robert Shrimsley argues that there will be no way out of the current sleaze-fest that is British politics until the House of Lords is reformed.

Politicians have long used political honours to elevate their friends and allies to cushy positions of power from which it is hard to shift them.

Johnson is not alone in promoting cronies to the Lords, but he is the man with the parliamentary majority and a stated intention to reduce the number of peers in the upper chamber.

It is a hodge-podge of hereditary peers, bishops and people chosen by party leaders as a reward for loyalty or donations.

While such a chamber is not incapable of doing good it is far less fair than it ought to be.

The Facts:

The new intake will mean the House of Lords is almost 200 members larger than the House of Commons, while being completely unelected.

The Lords backed a move in 2017 to reduce the size down to 600 members, but progress has not been made on cutting it down to size.

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