Time to change! ‘Unelected’ House of Lords under pressure to reform – MPs launch new group

Brexit: Boris Johnson’s deal clears House of Lords

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A new cross-party group – the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Electoral Reform is pushing for reforms of the Chamber to boost democracy at Westminster. Currently, there are around 800 members of the House of Lords, more than the 650 MPs elected into the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson appointed 16 new peers at Christmas taking the total to 52 in 2020 a move which raised the concern of Lord Speaker Norman Fowler.

Appointees included Scottish Tory MSP Ruth Davidson, Brexiteer former MEP Daniel Hannan, and Chair of Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign Jennifer Chapman.

But critics say the Chamber is being stuffed with Tory and Labour donors and not accountable to the people, with peers entitled to a daily allowance of up to £323 outside normal Covid-19 pandemic times.

Tommy Sheppard, vice chairman of the Committee which was formed this week and SNP MP said: “The SNP welcomes the formation of a cross-party group to pursue electoral reform.

“The party has long supported fair voting and abolition of the House of Lords.”

On the chamber, he claimed the Lords were “unaccountable” and added: “It is an affront to our democracy that the Tories have been allowed to stuff the House of Lords with their party chums, election losing has-beens and Whitehall cronies.

“There’s growing anger amongst voters and allowing this kind of Westminster sleaze to continue any longer threatens the credibility of our democracy.”

Michela Palese, Research and Policy Officer at the Electoral Reform Society, who are campaigning for a change to the Westminster system, added the second chamber would be “incapable” of reforming itself.

She added: “While it remains unelected, the House of Lords will continue to suffer from a complete lack of democratic legitimacy and accountability.

“And it will be completely incapable of reforming itself, however slightly, especially if there is a lack of political will and engagement within government and the House of Commons.

“Now is the time to boldly push for a fairly elected second chamber, which represents the diversity of opinion across the UK and which has the democratic legitimacy and accountability to perform its essential functions of scrutinising and revising legislation.”

The All Parliamentary Group will also push to “secure policy change for greater democracy in the voting system and process, to champion accountability and the voice of voters”.

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As well as potential reform of the Lords, the APPG will also look at voting rights in the UK and changes to elections to the House of Commons.

Labour MP Alex Sobel, the group’s chair, said: “I’m delighted that MPs across the spectrum are coming together to back the growing calls for electoral reform.

“Too many voters feel ignored and locked out by out-dated and warped systems at Westminster.

“This APPG is a step forward in the push for greater accountability, democracy and transparency, and a chance to learn from positive electoral reforms that have already empowered millions of people across the UK.

“With real reform, including a more proportional voting system, we can move forward as a democracy and bring Westminster into the 21st century.”

A House of Lords spokesperson said: “The House is a busy and effective revising chamber and has continued to hold the government to account during the pandemic.”

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