4 A moratorium on new peers |
28. Dr Russell told us that between 2011 and the
summer of 2013 the Prime Minister seemed to have been "constrained
by the outcry" that he knew would occur if and when new appointments
to the Lords were made.
She continued: "as a temporary stopgap, this unofficial moratorium
thus appears to have worked, and numbers in the chamber gradually
dropped (though still not to their pre-2010 election levels)."
However, the situation changed in August 2013 with the announcement
of thirty new political peers.
29. We asked witnesses whether a further, short-term
moratorium up until the next General Election would be helpful,
but there was only limited support for the idea. Lord Steel said:
"I would not be against that, but I can't say I would go
to the barricades for it".
The Green Party's written submission stated that if a moratorium
"was only expected to last for a few months until an elected
system is put in place then we would support it."
Similarly, the Campaign for a Democratic Upper House argued that
"it could be acceptable only as a step to a further reform,
of which it formed an integral and agreed part as the current
political make up of the Lords is not representative of the will
of the people".
30. We also asked witnesses whether a longer-term
moratorium would be an appropriate way of helping to reduce the
size of the House. Dr Barber suggested that a moratorium "might
also neutralise the disincentive of the executive to carry through
However, for the most part, those who submitted evidence did not
support the introduction of a moratorium. A number of submissions
argued that a moratorium would deprive the House of Lords of experience
which, according to John Smith, a member of the public who submitted
written evidence in an individual capacity, "is the lifeblood
of any organisation".
The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee went further,
describing the idea as "ridiculous and repugnant." It
reasoned: "to advocate a moratorium of this kind is to argue
that the existing membership is perfect, and unable to be supplemented
by any better or more recent wisdom than that which resides in
the present House."
Lord Steel told us that a moratorium "is going down the wrong
road, trying to tackle the numbers question the wrong way [...]."
Alan Renwick calculated that to bring the membership down to 500
by moratorium alone would take in the order of twelve or thirteen
years. In the meantime, he argued, the Chamber would "be
starved of fresh blood for far too long" and the "problem
of ever-rising numbers would only return once the moratorium was
Dr Ballinger noted that a moratorium "would reduce the size
of the House only slowly, and by attrition, and would inevitably
reverse as soon as the moratorium ended".
31. Concerns were also raised about the negative
impact a moratorium could have on party balance. The Campaign
for a Democratic Upper House stated:
If there were no provision for like-for-like
replacements on the death of a member, the balance would be likely
to be affected over time to the disadvantage of one or more of
the parties, or the Crossbenches; which in turn would affect the
degree to which the House could hold the government to account.
For Unlock Democracy, a moratorium would result in
"the government abandoning its stated aim of appointing new
peers to reflect the vote share received by political parties
in the 2010 General Election", because the only mechanism
for adjusting party balance within the House of Lords would no
longer be available.
Dr Gordon suggested that, for this reason, a moratorium would
be "very unlikely to command widespread support".
Finally, Dr Ballinger told us that a "key problem" was
that a moratorium would not be enforceable without legislation
given that "the right of the Prime Minister to recommend
peers cannot be extinguished by edict".
32. There is a third option which falls somewhere
between a full, long-term moratorium and a short-term one that
would freeze new appointments until the end of this Parliament.
This third form of moratorium could require the removal of two
or more peers for every new peer appointed. We think that it would
be worthwhile for the party leaders in the Lords to discuss this
option further, particularly as this could offer a way of tackling
the issue of the parties' relative numerical strength without
increasing the overall size of the House of Lords.
33. We conclude that the positive short-term impact
of a moratorium in helping to avoid further increases in the size
of the House would be outweighed by the loss to the House of Lords
of new perspectives and fresh thinking. There was little support
for a moratorium in the evidence we received and we conclude that
there is little, if any, prospect for securing a broad-based consensus
in favour of this proposal.
62 Ev w40 Back
Ev w40 Back
Q 16 Back
Ev w21 Back
Ev w29; See also See Ev w10 Back
Ev w4 Back
Ev w11 Back
Ev w8 Back
Q 36 Back
Ev w25 Back
Ev w45 Back
Ev w29 Back
Ev w33 Back
Ev w22 Back
Ev w45 Back