By the end of this week, unless something challenges the actions of our 3 Party leaders the number of people entitled to sit in the House of Lords will have risen by around 20 people, bringing the total number to around 850 people. This is despite the fact that all three of these men have made it clear that they want to see a smaller House of Lords as part of its wider reform. The increase in size is also despite the fact that the Lords is already desperately overcrowded, some estimates suggest it only has space for 300 men and women and that the cost to you and I is immense. Every Peer is entitled claim £350 tax free every day they choose to clock in, they don’t have to vote or speak or do any more than walk out again. Potentially this a daily cost of £300,000, before the cost of actually running the building and the administration is taken into account. The number of Lords has risen by 120 in the last 5 years and it is clear that despite the fine words from all three parties and their temporary leaders, that there is no grasp that we as taxpayers are sick and tired of this excess on top of all of the others. The irony is that prior to his election the Prime Minister who is the one setting the pace for this expansion said: “A strong society will solve our problems more effectively than big governments has or ever will” and yet he has overseen an expansion of this Government, even whilst all other parts of the public sector have been compressed due to the austerity.
In 1950 3 Million citizens of the United Kingdom were members of a Political Party, around 8% of the Population. The current number of party members is around 350,000, representing around 0.5% of the nation although no data is known for how many of these people are not resident in the UK, so they may reflect an even lower proportion. Whilst the decline has not been linear, a bit of crude maths would suggest that by 2030 the Political Parties might have no more than 1000 or 2000 members between them. By extrapolation by 2030 there will be around 1200 members of the House Lords, most of whom will be members of one of the Political Parties and of course a further 650 Party Members who will be ‘serving’ as MPs. Perhaps the hidden strategy of our 3 Party leaders is to ensure that by the end of the next decade, there will be room for all party members in Government!
There is a solution, it is for all of us to send messages using our preferred mechanism to the Party leaders and their members that our patience is exhausted and their time is up. It is perfectly reasonable for them to argue that the current membership of the House does not offer the range of skills needed to provide strong Government. However instead of adding to the size of the house, they need to agree to find a way of reducing the size of the House of Lords. They have just had a 3 days of discussions to introduce emergency legislation on Data Retention. There is no reason why they cannot recall Parliament and do the same regarding a way of ‘retiring Peers’. My view is that until the Lords is reduced to say 350 or 400 people, that for every new Peer introduced, that at least two are retired.