6 The introduction of a retirement
41. As Dr Ballinger's written evidence makes clear,
the idea of a retirement age is not entirely unknown to the House
of Lords: currently 26 Members of the House of Lords (the Bishops)
are subject to compulsory retirement at age 70, though some are
kept on beyond retirement by being appointed life peers.
However, for the vast majority of Members of the House of Lords,
appointments to the Lords are for life. The introduction of a
compulsory retirement age would require legislation to remove
the Writ of Summons from those who have been given it for life.
42. In 2011, the Leader's Group on Members Leaving
the House looked in detail at whether a compulsory retirement
scheme ought to be introduced. It found that, based on the membership
figures at the time, a retirement age of 70 would remove almost
half the Members of the House. A cut off point of 75 (mirroring
the arrangements for Supreme Court judges) would have removed
221 Members, and even raising the age to 80 would have removed
115 Members. More recent evidence that we received from Dr Russell
stated that introducing a retirement age of 80 would result in
the departure of around 130 current Members of the Lords, and
a retirement age of 75 would result in the departure of around
43. Although a retirement age could reduce the size
of the House, the proposal prompted concern among witnesses. A
number of submissions suggested that the introduction of a compulsory
retirement age would be an arbitrary and discriminatory measure.
Reflecting the views of a number of individuals and groups that
submitted evidence to us on this particular issue, the Liberal
Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee stated: "it is difficult
to justify such an arbitrary provision and particularly at a time
when fixed retirement ages are being abolished across the public
sector". It argued that the peers that would be removed would
not necessarily be the least useful, "they would simply be
the eldest." It continued: "age discrimination of this
sort would be no more democratic or acceptable than the imposition
of a minimum age".
Alan Renwick noted that many Members of an advanced age make "an
exceptionally valuable contribution".
Dr Ballinger told us that "it would be very difficult for
a Parliament, having said that most organisations should not have
a retiring age, to impose one on one of its Houses of Parliament".
A retirement age would not, without a drastic
and arbitrary effect, solve the issue of the size of the House
of Lords' membership; nor would it accord with the principles
of competence, rather than age, on which other organisations are
now for the most part required to take decisions about their employees.
44. Other concerns focused on the political implications
of such a scheme. Dr Barber warned that introducing a retirement
age could have the unintended consequence of increasing the proportion
of Members who owe their allegiance to the Prime Minister or leadership
of the day, possibly affecting the independence of Members.
A related point was made by Alan Renwick when he wrote that it
could give party leaders an incentive to appoint young Members
upon whom they could exert influence for many years. He stated:
"while there is much to be said for having larger numbers
of younger members, this should be done rationally rather than
in response to perverse incentives".
The Campaign for a Democratic Upper House argued that the proposal
would "break the rationale for the alleged independence of
the House, that its members are there for life."
Nor would retirement of those over 80 be party neutral, according
to Dr Russell, because there are fewer Labour and Liberal Democrat
peers over 80, compared to Conservatives and Crossbenchers.
45. Dr Russell, Dr Ballinger and Professor McLean
all suggested that if a compulsory retirement scheme were implemented,
there ought to be an appeals procedure for peers reaching the
retirement age who wished to show (to a body that would have to
be set up for the purpose) that they continued to make an important
46. We accept the view that the introduction of
a retirement age in the House of Lords would be both arbitrary
and discriminatory and could result in the loss of much-valued
expertise. It could also have an undesirable impact on party balance.
For these reasons, we reject the option of a compulsory retirement
age as a way of reducing the size of the House of Lords.
92 Ev w46 Back
Ev w41 Back
Ev w7. See also Ev w2; Ev w10; Ev w25; Ev w29 Back
Ev w23; See also Ev w29, Q 68 [Lord Tyler] Back
Q 128. See also Q 158 Back
Ev w46 Back
Q 134 Back
Ev w25 Back
Ev w30 Back
Ev w43 Back
Q 131. See also Ev w8; Ev w15 Back