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The average life peer claimed £20,935 (including travel expenses) between April 2019 and February 2020 but only contributed to 12 debates, produced seven written questions and voted just 23 times. The research from the New Statesman magazine found: “140 eligible peers took part in no debates in from April 2019-Feb 2020. Neither could they reasonably claim to have participated by listening and voting rather than speaking: on average, those 140 peers voted ten times out of a possible 51.
“For 48 of the 140, there is no record of them voting at all.
“120 out of nearly 800 voted five times or fewer in this time period.”
Three life peers claimed more than £29,000 in attendance fees and travel expenses for attending no debates, sitting on no committees and voting in less than half the listed divisions in that period, despite signing in for more than 90 days
Hereditary peer claimed on average £20,604 (including travel expenses) for speaking in an average of ten or fewer debates over the 113-day period between April 2019 and February 2020, submitted six or fewer written questions, and voted 22 times out of the 51 possible votes.”
The Institute for Government has said the cost of running the House of Lords surged from £99million in 2017-18 to £117.4million in 2018-19.
A large part of this increase has been attributed to a 27 percent rise in peers’ allowances to £23.4million, predominantly because of the House sitting on more days.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERF), an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters, has seen nearly 400,000 people sign its petition to replace the House of Lords – a huge jump from 170,000 at the end of July.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the ERF, said the House of Lords is “sinking with dead weight and zero accountability”, and called for the current “expenses free-for-all” to be replaced.
He also warned there are a “worrying number of couch-potato peers and lobby-fodder Lords” at a time when there are several important issues to scrutinise, adding “voters deserve a revising chamber that is fit for purpose”.
Mr Hughes said: “There is a something-for-nothing culture in Britain’s unelected house – and that’s no surprise when voters cannot kick out those who are failing them. Despite many peers working hard, our supposed revising chamber is sinking with dead weight, and zero accountability.
“These figures suggest the problem of “silent peers” is only getting worse. Britain’s super-sized second chamber needs to be made far leaner, with dedicated scrutineers replacing the current expenses free-for-all.
“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. The time for piecemeal reform is long over. Voters deserve a revising chamber that is fit for purpose.
“Let’s move to a slimmed-down, PR-elected chamber for the nations and regions – and finally get this house in order.”
Peers can claim a flat rate of £323 a day, and a further £8,967 in travel expenses to get to and from the House of Lords.
Alan Haworth, a Labour life peer who served on a joint bill committee in 2019, attempted to defended the role of peers in the upper house.
He told the New Statesman: “There are plenty of ways of making a contribution other than speaking in the chamber, and not everyone can serve on a select committee – too many peers and too few opportunities.
“It is quite true that I don’t make a big habit of speaking in the chamber.
“Lots of members are too fond of hearing their own voices, and I am a bit more restrained. I speak when I have something to say.”
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