Monday, August 5, 2013

Too much ermine: Calls to put oversized House of Lords on diet

Crowded house: The House of Lords is  the second-biggest legislature in the world after China?s Politburo.

Crowded house: The House of Lords is the second-biggest legislature in the world after China's Politburo. Photo: AP

LONDON: Members of the House of Lords should be forced to retire to cut it down to size and make it easier to run, say peers and constitutional experts.

The call came as the British government announced another 30 new peers, nearly half of whom are supporters of the ruling Conservative Party.

The House of Lords is the second-biggest legislature in the world after China's National People's Congress. The increase takes the number of people sitting in the Lords to 785, not including 44 who are on a leave of absence, and need to give three months' notice to return, and Baroness Ludford, who as a member of the European Parliament cannot take her seat.

The second chamber even exceeds the European Parliament, which took its total members to 766 after the addition of 18 representatives from Croatia earlier this year.

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Liberal Democrat peer Lord Steel said the law needed to be changed to allow peers - who are appointed for life and can claim £300 ($500) a day to attend debates - to retire.

He said: ''At the moment, the chamber is overcrowded every day at question time. We've had to remove the public seats from below the bar and peers can sit there but can't speak from there.

''And you can't even hear properly what's going on. In the long run … there has to be total reform of the House of Lords.''

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: ''We are so out of line now with every other second chamber in the democratic world. It is pretty indefensible I think.''

He suggested introducing a new age limit: ''Let's face it: the second revising chamber - which is what the House of Lords is meant to be - should not be more than about 150 to 200. So we have got 600 too many - you have got have a fairly ruthless system to slim it down.''

Telegraph, London

Correction: The original version of this story said the House of Lords is the second-biggest legislature in the world after China's Politburo rather than China's National People's Congress.

National People's Congress


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