Lord Leigh calls for expansion to House of Lords chamber
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In a parliamentary debate on Lords reform, Lord Leigh of Hurley indicated current proposals on slashing the size of the chamber should be scrapped. In 2017 a Lords committee report suggested the number of peers should be capped at 600 members.
The proposals would reduce the size of the bulging chamber by a quarter.
It also suggested peers should be appointed on a 15-year term and give up their position afterwards.
The findings were overwhelmingly backed by peers at the time.
But now that planned reforms to cut the size of the House of Commons from 640 to 600 have been scrapped, the Conservative peer suggested plans to cut the Lords should also be amended.
He then went on to claim “more members” should be admitted to the chamber to make it more representative.
Lord Leigh asked cabinet office minister Lord True: “Would my noble friend the minister agree that now that the other place has agreed that they will stay at 650, we can review our aspiration of 600 to 650?
“Secondly, to recognise that unlike the other place [The Commons], we are not salaried men, we represent a wide pool of expertise and experience.
“That pool needs to be deepened and strengthened.
“By admitting more members of this House we will counter the allegations, the correct allegations, of underrepresentation of minorities, women, and business people.”
His suggestion caused a stir among peers in the House who were taken aback by the suggestion.
Responding, Lord True supported his colleague and said he did not believe it was right to place a fixed cap on the membership of the House of Lords.
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Instead, the minister said the chamber’s numbers should be decided on based on its needs.
He said: “I would agree, strongly agree, with him and I suspect that many of the British people would agree that this House needs refreshing from time to time.
“I’m not going to get hung up on any number between 600 and 650, the membership should be appropriate to enable the House of Lords to carry of its role, and carry it out in a way that reflects that role and also the primacy of the House of Commons as the elected Chamber.”
Currently there are 820 peers of the House of Lords.
It is the second-largest legislative chamber in the world, behind only the National People’s Congress of China.
Its size has rapidly grown under Boris Johnson’s Government, with 52 new appointments to the Lords announced last year, increasing the chamber’s size by more than five percent.
Lords are allowed to claim an allowance of £305 a day for simply turning up at Parliament.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman has previously said the Prime Minister remains committed to reducing the size of the unelected chamber.
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