Peers claimed £1.3m expenses but never spoke in House of Lords debates, Electoral Reform Society reports

Written by Agnes Chambre on 22 September 2017 in News

The Electoral Reform Society reports that one in seven peers claimed expense without speaking in any debates

House of Lords - Image credit: PA images

One in seven members of the House of Lords claimed a total of nearly £1.3m from the public purse without speaking in any debates, it has been revealed.

The Electoral Reform Society revealed 115 peers failed to speak at all in the 2016/17 session, despite claiming an average of £11,091 each.

Some 18 peers failed to vote at all but still claimed £93,162. One member made no spoken contribution and only voted twice but received £48,279.

The analysis also showed expenses have soared 20 per cent in the last two years.

Electoral Reform Society chief executive Darren Hughes said the figures were a "damning indictment of the state of the House of Lords”.

He said: "There appears to be a growing ‘something for nothing’ culture in our upper house, with tidy sums being claimed by those who barely contribute.

“And there are a worrying number of couch-potato peers and lobby-fodder Lords at a time when there is plenty to scrutinise – ostensibly the upper chamber’s role.”

He added: “Huge amounts of money are going to the people who contribute the least. This is an outrageous situation.

“We need to move to a much smaller upper chamber – one that is properly accountable – so that the Lords is no longer seen as a retirement home for party donors but something fit for the Mother of all Parliaments.

“However, piecemeal changes like imposing a retirement age will do little to deal with the real issue – a total lack of accountability among Lords that allows this kind of behaviour to grow and fester.

“From lobby-fodder Lords who only turn up to vote, to couch-potato peers who fail to turn up at all, the situation in the second chamber is a scandal.

“Now let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “The public should be appalled that these unelected  ‘lobby fodder Lords’ can claim £300 a day just for turning up – even if it is only for an hour.

“The place is now quickly becoming a national embarrassment ripe for abolition.

“These 115 silent Lords who haven't said a word in the last year should be there first to be shown the door quickly followed by the rest of the cronies, donors, failed politicians and hangers on.

"This is an issue that has been dragging on for decades with little or no reform under either Labour or the Tories.

“These findings make it time for the end of the peer show . It is time for it to go – once and for all.’’

But the House of Lords claimed the report was flawed.

It disputed the Electoral Reform Society’s claim that expenses claims have soared by 20 per cent in two years as “factually incorrect”.

It clarified that in the 2016/17 financial year, the total expenses claimed were £22.4m. In 2014/15, they were £20.1m, which is an increase of 11 per cent.

This it added was “largely due to their being 15 more sitting days in 2016/17”.

A spokesman also said: “The Electoral Reform Society’s calculations are undermined by their narrow focus on spoken contributions.

“Speaking in the chamber is only one of the ways members hold the Government to account and this research ignores members’ contributions including amending legislation, asking the Government written questions and serving on select committees.

"More than 320 members served on committees in the last session of Parliament – as well as parliamentary work away from the Chamber.

“It is inaccurate to describe a House that tabled 5,608 amendments to legislation, asked Government 7,395 written questions and published 170 Committee reports in 2016/17 as a ‘part time’ House. The Lords is an active and effective revising chamber."

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