House of Lords must urgently 
axe 200 peers, demand MPs

Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by the Prince of Wales presents the government's Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London.
Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by the Prince of Wales presents the government's Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London.
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The House of Lords must axe 200 peers and act with urgency, a committee of MPs has demanded.

The number of lords must be cut and capped at 600 instead of the current 800, according to Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC).

Its report backs previous findings from the Burns report and calls for urgent action, arguing that the growing size of the Lords is affecting the chamber’s ability to function effectively.

Conservative MP Sir Bernard said Westminster’s revising chamber cannot be allowed to grow “exponentially” and this was the “obvious step”.

He said: “The House of Lords is of vital importance to the UK’s political system, carrying out important scrutiny and revising functions, but it is a problem that the size of the chamber continues to grow exponentially.

“My committee is calling for the number of peers to be reduced, and then capped, at 600, as recommended in the Burns report.

“This is an urgent window of opportunity and the Government and other party leaders must seize this moment of consensus to ensure the number of peers is reduced to 600 over the years ahead.”

The committee highlights how the reduction rate recommended by the Burns report would take 11 years to reduce numbers and calls for party leaders to agree strict retirement targets to speed up reaching this target.

A rapid reduction in numbers could be achieved with a commitment by the Prime Minister to a “two out, one in” policy, MPs said.

They also want an appointing body to justify new appointments, which should be allocated to parties according to their vote share in the previous general election, and a commitment to greater diversity.

Sir Bernard also set out a new 15-year term for newly appointed peers, which he said was a “desirable but not essential” part of the recommended reform.

He said: “The introduction of 15-year term limits for new life peers is perhaps the most radical element of the scheme and it will create two classes of peer, with all existing peers remaining appointed for life and all new peers for a fixed term. There are members of both Houses who have been highly effective parliamentarians for far longer than 15 years, and this fixed term could remove peers at the peak of their effectiveness.”

The actions set out by the committee would be “a minimal incremental reform”, Sir Bernard said, and “will fall far short of the aspirations of many who wish to see abolition or an elected Upper House”.

He added: “Adopting this reform does, however, not remove the pressure for more fundamental reform of the second chamber.”