Reducing the number of peers

indexMy debate on the case for reducing the size of the House of Lords took place yesterday.  Anyone wishing to watch it can see it here.  I argued that, in terms of membership, the House had grown, was growing, and needed to be reduced.  The size of the House, both in terms of total and active membership, generates problems in terms of how we are seen by the public and our capacity to fulfil our core functions.

There were some very good speeches during the debate, not least that of the former Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman.  One or two peers could not see what the problem was.  The main response to the argument that the House was overcrowded was ‘what’s the problem? Look, the chamber’s not full.’  That was about it.  When I travel on the tube in the afternoon and the carriages are not full, I do not conclude that there isn’t a problem of congestion on the underground.  For those opposed to any change, I ended with a quote from Burke: ‘a state without the means of some change is without the means of its own conservation’.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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6 Responses to Reducing the number of peers

  1. Tory boy says:

    Surely capacity could be increased in the chamber by moving the Bar of the House as is done for State Opening or linking up the block of benches to create more seats.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Certainly could, though it would only constitute a partial solution and it is not clear why we should expand physically when there is no clear rationale for increasing the number of members.

  2. James Hand says:

    I couldn’t agree more:

    12 Dec 2013 : Column 975

    More radical proposals have been canvassed. These include proposing a mandatory retirement age or imposing a set period for which a new Peer may serve, such as 10 or 15 years. The problem with each of these is that it has the potential to rid the House of Members who are making a substantial contribution to it. There is another proposal that would not have such an arbitrary effect and could be geared to the need to maintain a balance between the parties in the House and allow for some recalibration in each Parliament: to determine the number that each political grouping should have in a Parliament and to allow each to elect from within its own ranks those who should remain within the House—in other words, a scheme not dissimilar from that employed in 1999 to determine which hereditary Peers should remain in the House.

    12 Dec 2013 : Column 991

    Lord Cormack: … My noble friend Lord Norton in his very admirable speech referred, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, to the average attendance now being 484 per day, but we must bear in mind that they are not the same 484 people day after day. If we are to draw upon a wide range of experience and deep reservoir of talent, we must not be over-worried about numbers, although we are right to be concerned. Concern is something we all share. We are concerned about the reputation of this House.

  3. tizres says:

    At the risk of a giant claxon going off, shouldn’t the problem be addressed by those who are (largely) responsible for creating the problem? Too radical? Too risky?

  4. tizres says:

    I notice our Queen has registered her manorial rights in the Duchy of Lancaster*, closely coinciding with the Church of England sending a number of similar missives across the UK bit of Her Majesty’s lands (including my own home) earlier this year.

    Given this fire sale’s date of 31 October 2013, the relevant Act passed in 2002 and, oh, I don’t know, maybe the likelihood of fracking for gas wherever it may be, should I assume that we could be in for an interesting fight between the Crown Estate and the CofE in the near future? Will either care that my home might be unsellable in a similar way to those built on flood plains?


  5. maude elwes says:

    The Lords is filled with politically correct appointees, cronies and relatives of those filling its already too full benches. The rest are simply outright thieves. There is only a few of them worth their weight but they gave up that rights when they continued to sanction the duff that sits beside them.

    So, get rid of it altogether and bring a witnessed democracy to this island. Enough is enough.

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