Saturday, 22 June 2013

The House of Lords Will Grow Too Much

I have had a look at the "alternative Queen's speech" and there is one Bill that I haven't touched on yet - the House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill.

The list (this gets updated regularly, so these figures are just for the moment) gives:

  • Labour - 217
  • Conservative - 210
  • Crossbench - 180
  • Liberal Democrat - 89
  • Archbishops & Bishops - 25
  • Non-affiliated - 21
  • Other parties - 13

The "other parties" covers 2 Democratic Unionists (Wallace Browne, and the former Northern Ireland Minister for Social Development Maurice Morrow - note that the former Northern Ireland First Minister, Ian Paisley, and his wife Eileen, are both on a Leave of Absence); 2 Ulster Unionists (the former party leader, Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Northern Ireland Minister for Enterprise & Trade Reg Empey, and Dennis Rogan - although I am suprised to see Empey listed here, as his peerage was announced as a Conservative working peer); 2 UK Independence Party (former party leader Malcolm Pearson and Leopold Verney); 2 Plaid Cymru (both former party leader - the Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Dafydd Wigley); 2 Independent Labour (Jeff Rooker and David Stoddart, both former MPs); 2 Independent Liberal Democrats (Chris Rennard and former MP Jenny Tonge); and finally 1 Independent Conservative, David Stevens.

The non-affiliated are a mixed bag, ranging from people who have to be neutral, such as the Speaker of the House of Lords Frances D'Souza and the Chairman of the Enviroment Agency Chris Smith, through to people who have lost their party's whip due to misuse (often financial) of their position.

What I first want to look at is the "big party" peers - the 217 Labour, 210 Conservative, 89 Liberal Democrat and 2 UK Independence Party ones, making up 518 of the 755 eligible members.

One principle is that the number of the "big party" peers, by party, should depend on the relative share of the vote at the last general election. The latest poll by YouGov gives, out of 1,387 voters, 572 choosing Labour, 456 the Conservatives, 201 the UK Independence Party and 158 the Liberal Democrats.

Hence, the Liberal Democrats have 158/1387 = 11.4% of the "big party" vote. And this should be reflected in the number of peers they have after the next election.

Assuming - and this is a big if - there are no furher peerage creations this side of the general election, then the 89 Liberal Democrat peers will have to comprise 11.4% of the "big party" peerages.

Hence, the number of "big party" peerages would have to be:

89 x 1387/158 = 781

This would give the number of peerages as:

  • Labour - 322 (up 105)
  • Conservative - 257 (up 47)
  • UK Independence Party - 113 (up 111)
  • Liberal Democrat - 89 (unchanged)

To put it another way, to ensure the number of party peers reflects the share of the vote, 263 new peers need to be created.

Well, actually it's more than that. If you take the 730 non-ecclesiastical peers (i.e. the "lords temporal") then 180 of them are Crossbenchers, comprising 24.7% of them. If 263 new party peers are created, then this brings the number of lords temporal to 973 - and the Crossbenchers would be reduced to just 18.5% of this total. So, to keep the current ratio, we need to create an extra 80 peers.

This gives us:

  • Labour - 322 (up 105)
  • Crossbench - 260 (up 80)
  • Conservative - 257 (up 47)
  • UK Independence Party - 113 (up 111)
  • Liberal Democrat - 89 (unchanged)
  • Archbishops & Bishops - 25 (unchanged)
  • Non-affiliated - 21 (unchanged)
  • Other parties - 11 (down 2 as we are counting UK Independence Party separately)

With 343 new peers created, then this brings the House of Lords up to 1,098 - around the size when the hereditary peers were expelled.

It is likely that Labour will form the next Government - but would only have 29.3% of the House of Lords membership, which will be quite low for a Government wanting to get its business through.

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