Outgoing Lords speaker urges number of peers to be slashed for big taxpayer saving
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash could be saved by slashing the number of peers in the House of Lords, the outgoing speaker in the upper chamber has said.
Baroness D'Souza said she was “embarrassed” by the 800-strong House which could “comfortably” be cut by about 250 peers with no loss in working output.
The crossbencher said the bloated numbers, as well as the increased politicisation of the chamber, were undermining its reputation and effectiveness.
Lady D’Souza will be replaced by former Tory minister Lord Fowler in September after she decided not to stand for the post after six years in the £100,000-a-year role.
Speaking to the National Federation of Women’s Institutes today, she said peers were vital in scrutinising the government and MPs, but that “all is not well” in the Lords.
“The House is far larger than it needs to be to fulfil its role, increasing the burden to the administration and to the taxpayer,” Lady D'souza said.
“The size of the House – I am almost too embarrassed to tell you that we currently have well over 800 members.”
And she added: "While some of those appointed are clear contributors to the work of the Lords, too many are not."
Lady D’Souza went on: “Peers are sometimes appointed for reasons other than their expertise or indeed willingness to contribute to the work of the second chamber.
“An increasing number of former MPs are being appointed which shifts the balance towards a more politicised House.”
Some 56 appointments in the past year had been party political, she explained, while only four had been crossbench or independent peers.
She said the issues had “'contributed greatly to a downturn in the reputation of the House and indeed to its effective working”.
And she concluded: “A careful analysis of attendance, voting, and contributions to debates, oral questions, and committees indicates that the Lords – a full-time Chamber with part-time members - could very comfortably carry out its work with no loss of expertise or diminution in the close scrutiny of legislation with between 450-500 members.
“The total cost of members’ allowances and travel is around £20m per annum, so reducing the size of the House by about 250 members would represent a significant saving to the taxpayer.”
She added that a “more rational and less politically driven recruitment process” would increase the effectiveness of the Lords and stem the charge that it is “overstuffed and unnecessary”.
Lady D’Souza recently defended herself against accusations she herself wasted taxpayers’ money with excessive expenses claims.
She was criticised last year for spending £230 to keep a chauffeur-driven car waiting while she attended an opera.
The peer also spent £270 while a car waited four and a half hours for her to have lunch with a Japanese ambassador in central London.
But speaking earlier this month she insisted her expenses bill was not an “excessive amount of money” in her role of “promoting parliamentary democracy”.