House of Lords

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The House of Lords is the second chamber of Parliament, the first one being the House of Commons. The main function is to scrutinise proposed new laws to make sure they are fair and workable.
Traditionally, many peers were appointed based on their individual expertise (but see #Cash for Peerages), and its role has been to scrutinise bills in detail, hold govt accountable, and to think about broader issues in public policy. Such scrutiny will often take the form of questioning expert witnesses from the field of the particular issue — like health professionals and researchers, for example.

In recent years the House of Lords has insisted that physical and mental health be given equal status; ensured that children with special needs have access to mainstream education; and protected the right to legal aid for people on welfare. Very rarely can it prevent a bill from becoming law, but it has certain options of intervening and forcing the House of Commons to rethink their decisions.


Packing

  • May.21.2018: May names 9 new Tory peers to bolster party after Brexit defeats. Theresa May has nominated 9 new Tory peers as she tries to bolster her party’s fragile position in the House of Lords. Sir Eric Pickles, Peter Lilley, Sir Edward Garnier, Sir John Randall, Sir Alan Haselhurst and Andrew Tyrie, all former MPs. May’s other nominees are Diana Barran, Catherine Meyer, the founder of Action Against Abduction who is married to former US ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, and Amanda Sater, a former party deputy chair. The DUP will nominate former MP William McCrea, who has been criticised for sharing a platform with Billy Wright, a loyalist paramilitary. Labour was granted 3 nominations, and Jeremy Corbyn put forward former party general secretary Iain McNicol, and the race equality campaigner Martha Osamor, mother of MP Kate Osamor. The 3rd nominee is Pauline Bryan, a Scottish campaigner and editor of What Would Keir Hardie Say?, a collection of essays once given by Corbyn to Barack Obama. The proposed elevation of Osamor was immediately criticised by a Jewish campaign group after it emerged that she was one of several signatories to a 2016 letter complaining about the suspension of Ken Livingstone and others over antisemitism. Gideon Falter, chair of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said that elevating Osamor was a “two-fingered salute” to the Jewish community. The Liberal Democrats did not make any nominations, although it is well represented in the chamber with 98 peers. The nominations will tilt the balance of the chamber slightly in favour of Theresa May, taking her party’s total of peers from 244 to 253. But no party has a majority in the 780-strong upper house, and the govt has been so heavily defeated on some amendments that introducing a handful of more supportive peers will only make a modest difference in getting Brexit through parliament. Dan Sabbagh, Anne Perkins, The Guardian.
  • May.18.2018: PM set to nominate 10 Tory peers after string of Brexit defeats. Tories tipped for elevation include former ministers Sir Eric Pickles and Peter Lilley. Andrew Adonis said: “This is a classic example of packing the Lords to try and make Brexit easier to endorse.” A report last year recommended the Lords should be reduced in size by 25%, which is backed by May, though this does not preclude the creation of new peers. See "Quick Guide" in this article. Dan Sabbagh, Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian.

Membership

There is no fixed number of members. Bishops in the Church of England are entitled to sit in the House, and are known as the Lords Spiritual; all others are known as the Lords Temporal. The number of hereditary peers is limited to 92; a by-election is held when a seat becomes vecant.[1] The total number of W:members is currently 794.[2]

Lords Spiritual Bishops 25  
Lords Temporal Hereditary Peers 91 Elected among themselves
Appointed Peers 678 Appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister

Operating Costs

According to information published by the Guardian, the net operating costs in 2013-4 was £93.1m, around £118k per peer. Between Feb.2014—Jan.2015, £21,424,729 was spent on Lords’ allowances and expenses, with the average peer receiving £25,826. Although David Cameron and his Overlord George Osborne cut other people off from silly things like healthcare and housing, there are proposals to bring an additional 50 peers (mostly Tory advisors) in, a move which is set to cost the taxpayer a further £1.3m. ShoutOutUK

Remuneration

Most members of the House of Lords do not receive a salary.[3] They receive an attendance allowance of £300 per day, plus travel expenses[4] and subsidised restaurant facilities. Peers may choose to receive a reduced attendance allowance of £150 per day instead if, for example, s/he attended for less than a full sitting day, or undertook qualifying work not at Westminster. The payments are not taxed.[5]

Following a series of scandals over peers' claims, a new system of financial support was introduced on Oct.01.2010.[6] [7] However, there are multiple claims that the new system is also being abused. When challenged on his record, Lord Hanningfield asserted that "at least half" the members of the Lords checked in to claim expenses.[8] The Electoral Reform Society claimed that between 2010–2015 a total of £360,000 was claimed by 62 peers who did not vote, but Baroness Flather pointed out that she rarely voted but often spoke.[9] More recently, Lord Whitby and Lord Jones of Birmingham are two of 115 peers accused of being part of a "something for nothing" culture. Research from the Electoral Reform Society found that peers who haven't spoken in the House of Lords for an entire year have claimed nearly £1.3 million in expenses and allowances.[10] [11]

  • Mar.24.2018: Peers award themselves pay rise. Peers will claim up to £305 for turning up at the House of Lords after awarding themselves an annual rise yesterday. The House of Lords Commission said that peers should benefit from the same 1.8% increase given to MPs. The move ends a freeze on daily allowances that has been in place since 2010. From next month peers will be able to claim £305 tax free for a full day sitting or £153 for a half day, up from £300 or £150. Members also receive travel expenses but are unable to claim for accommodation, staff or subsistence. Stefan Rousseau, The Times.

Visiting the House of Lords

  • 2014.12.04: Houses of Parliament Tours. Take an audio or guided tour inside the Houses of Parliament and experience a unique combination of 1,000 years of history, modern day politics and stunning art and architecture. For more information, including how to book tours, please visit www.parliament.uk/visiting. YouTube
  • Ways to Visit, https://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/ There are a number of ways UK residents and overseas visitors can visit the Houses of Parliament including taking tours and watching debates and committees.

Conflicts of Interest

  • Jun.25.2012: Lords for Hire. A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows 124 members of the House of Lords benefit from the financial services industry, with clients who are financial services firms, hold positions with them, or lobby on their behalf. FixMe: Cont. going through this list, put the info on the relevant page. Got to No.10. Melanie Newman, Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Reform

  • May.22.2018: The government tried to bury news on the bloated House of Lords. Here’s the facts.Theresa May backs bid to cut the size of House of Lords” began a headline in February. Over the weekend, the PM attempted to bury news that she is appointing 13 new Lords – amid the clamour of the Royal Wedding. New research we’ve published in the Daily Mirror today has shown what the new Lordships will mean in practice for the bloated second chamber. With more members comes more expenses claims. The total cost of the new Peers – based solely in terms of annual allowances and travel expenses – is expected to be at least £289,558 a year, according to ERS analysis. This latest batch of Lords appointments comes despite a report commissioned by the Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, proposing a ‘two-out, one-in’ system to bring the total down to 600 by 2027, published at the end of last year. Lord Harries of Pentregarth said: “I believe that our present size … brings us into disrepute. Lord Selkirk of Douglas added: “It cannot sit altogether comfortably that when legislatures around the world are listed by size, we come second only to the National People’s Congress of China.” Make no mistake: these new additions are an insult to voters. Darren Hughes, Electoral Reform Society.
  • Feb.20.2018: May vows to end automatic peerage for senior public roles. Theresa May has said she will end “automatic entitlement to a peerage” for holders of high office in public life such as senior figures from the judiciary, police, military and civil service. The idea of automatic entitlement for some very senior public roles is not a legal mechanism but a convention arising from figures entering the Lords on their own account. May made the promise in a response to the Burns report, which recommended reducing the House of Lords from almost 800 members to 600. Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed the situation was unsustainable. "She seems temperamentally unable to make a decision." May pointed out in her letter that while her predecessor, David Cameron, had placed 13 Tories in the Lords through his controversial resignation honours list, she had opted for just 3 ministerial appointments. She is likely to face accusations of kicking some of the Burns recommendations into the long grass. The report had divided its recommendations into two key areas – steps to reduce the size of the Lords and establishment of mechanisms to maintain it at a “steady and smaller state”. Anushka Asthana, The Guardian.

Cash for Peerages

  • ToDo:

Contact a Lord

References