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MPs recommend reducing the number of Lords

19 November 2018

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has today put its support behind the recommendations of the Lord Speaker's committee on the size of the House, chaired by Lord Burns, reinforcing arguments that the growing size of the Lords is affecting the Chamber's ability to function effectively.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, said:

“The Burns report presents an opportunity to take the most obvious next step in the evolution of the House of Lords. The House of Lords is of vital importance to the UK's political system, carrying out important scrutiny and revising functions, but it is a problem that the size of the Chamber continues to grow exponentially. My Committee is calling for the number of peers to be reduced, and then capped, at 600, as recommended in the Burns report. This is an urgent window of opportunity and the Government and other party leaders must seize this moment of consensus to ensure that the number of peers is reduced to 600 over the years ahead.”

The Committee calls for:

  • The reduction and cap to the number of Members of the House of Lords to 600;
  • The reduction of the number of peers at a faster rate than suggested in the Burns Report;
  • New appointments should be allocated to party groups based on the results of the previous general election
  • Appointing bodies to justify new appointments and for new peers to make a statement of intended contribution;
  • Greater diversity of representation in the House of Lords;
  • Commitment by the Prime Minister to the principle of “two-out one-in” to reduce the size of the House of Lords.

Reducing the number of Lords to 600

The Burns report was produced by a special committee of Lords and focuses on the size of the upper chamber. The central recommendation made by the Burns Report is that the size of the House of Lords should be reduced to, and capped at, 600 members. The Burns Report was broadly welcomed in the House of Lords. In this follow-up report, the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee stresses that “addressing the size of the House of Lords is an urgent political priority which must not be delayed.” The Committee expresses concern that the House of Lords' growing size is having a direct impact on the Chamber's ability to fulfil its essential duties.

Reduce the number of Lords at a quicker rate

The Burns Report proposal for reducing the size of the House of Lords would take 11 years to reduce the number to 600. The Committee goes further, arguing that a tighter timetable for reform should be followed, and that party leaders should agree to strict retirement targets. The Committee's report also endorses the ‘two-out one-in' principle as an effective method of reducing the size of the Chamber.

Appointments formula

The Burns report proposes that all new appointments should be allocated according to a formula that combines the number of seats won in the House of Commons with the proportion of the national vote at the previous general election. The Committee fully supports this recommendation, which sets out the constitutional convention that appointments to the House of Lords should reflect the results of the most recent general election, which our predecessor Committees have advocated for previously.

Introduce a verification process for new Lords

The Burns Report proposed that the House of Lords Appointments Commission should be tasked with "ensuring that all nominees are aware, before they accept a peerage, of what being an active member of the House of Lords entails.” The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee supports this recommendation and additionally recommends that Lords nominees should make a written statement prior to their nomination being approved. This should set out how they intend to contribute to the work of the House of Lords, in particular to the scrutiny of Bills and other legislation, and in general to the work of the Committees of the House.

Monitor the representation of minority groups in the Lords

There is widespread concern about the lack of diversity in the House of Lords. The Committee's report notes that the current make-up of the House of Lords “does not reflect the country which it serves” and recommends that new appointments should better reflect wider society in areas such as gender, region, ethnicity and religion. The Committee recommends that the Lords Appointments Commission should monitor and report on the diversity of nominees and peers for all groups.

Further information

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