Sixty new peers – just to make sure the Government can never lose

I see Mark D’Arcy has picked up on the rumours that have been sweeping the House of Lords for the last few weeks that Number Ten is about to announce the appointment of another sixty life peers: forty Tories; fifteen LibDems and five Labour.  This would be a net gain for the coalition of fifty votes – enough to swamp two of the three defeats that the Government suffered on the Welfare Reform Bill last week.

The current membership of the House of Lords is a whopping 787 (excluding 22 peers who are on leave of absence and 17 who are disqualified or suspended for one reason or another).  The new additions (which would mean approaching two hundred – yes, two hundred – new peers since the General Election) will bring the size of the House of Lords to 847.  (Contrast this with the plans to cut the elected House of Commons by fifty members.)

The extra members will make the Tories the largest grouping in the House of Lords and give the combined coalition 364 members against Labour’s 244 – an effective majority of 120.  (Although there are 186 cross-benchers they tend to split on votes with some supporting the Government and some opposing and their rates of participation tend to be lower as well.)

Anywhere else in the world this would be regarded as packing the legislature, termed as gerrymandering or deemed to be crony politics of the worst sort.

The scale of increase of membership far exceeds that an any previous time in the House of Lords’ history.

In the two years since the General Election, the Government has been defeated 28 times in the House of Lords – in all but a handful of instances the margins of defeat have been less than fifty.  So had the new peers been in place most of those defeats would not have happened.  Twenty-eight defeats over two years is in any event a small number compared with the average of more than forty defeats a year during the lifetime of the last Labour Government.

The cost of the extra peers will be two to three million pounds per year – so I suppose from the coalition’s point of view that will be money well spent to ensure that they are not troubled with poor quality ill-thought through legislation being sent back to the House of Commons for reconsideration.

6 thoughts on “Sixty new peers – just to make sure the Government can never lose”

  1. I suppose that other counter revolutionary measures like assassinations await their trial in undemocratic quarters.

  2. ‘The government, according to strong rumour, is about to make defeats a little less likely, by appointing 60 new peers – 40 Conservatives, 15 Liberal Democrats and five Labour. And no crossbenchers.’ Mark D’Arcy

    Democracy Lives.. not
    And we are all in this together?
    With this shower it’s life but not as we know it..
    Camerwong as usual.
    Just give us some sustainable growth and proper jobs.

  3. What we really need is the end of a lifetime right to sit in the Lords. I would go for 1/3 elected by PR, 1/3 appointed for their expertise and a 1/3 re-elected by fellow peers.

  4. Toby

    Am I missing something – is the response from Lord Strathclyde on 24/1 ambiguous.?

    He added: “There is no plan to pack the House with government supporters of at least 60 members. It would look absurd and it would be absurd.”

    Does this leave the way open to pack less than 60 ( new peers )in ?

  5. No – you are right to be suspicious.
    First, the rumour I heard was 55 Government supporters and five Opposition – so not sixty!
    Second, they would claim they are not packing the House merely righting an existing imbalance.

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