Sunday, 16 June 2019

Britain is still very much a country which generously rewards old men called peers for sitting in the House of Lords and doing nothing

This genial old chap, is an 82 year-old 'Peer of the Realm' with a seat in the House of Lords. Last year he was was among the dozens of, largely, old men, who sat in the House and didn't take part in a single debate. For that he claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting, despite never speaking or asking any written questions, although he did take part in the votes.

The House of Lords, the second chamber of Britain's Parliament has nominated and unelected occupants. Although undemocratic, it still plays a major role in making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the Government. It offers a sop to being undemocratic by saying that its members come from many walks of life and bring experience and knowledge from a wide range of occupations. 

A recent analysis covered the attendance, participation and allowances claims of 785 Lords serving for a full year between 2017 and 2018 and revealed that a third of them barely participated in Parliamentary business over a 12-month period, despite claiming almost £3.2m in allowances. It will raise fresh questions about the size and effectiveness of the Lords and the funds that can be claimed by those who fail to regularly contribute.

In fact :

* 88 – about one in nine - never spoke, held a Government post or participated in a committee.

* 46 did not register a single vote, including on Brexit, sit on a committee or hold a post. 

* 1 claimed £25,000 without voting once and while another claimed £41,000 but only voted once.

* more than 270 claimed more than £40,000 in allowances, with 2 claiming more than £70,000.

The former Lords Speaker, Frances D’Souza, a long-term advocate of reform, said the findings corroborated “what everyone suspects is going on” and that a minority of peers risked discrediting the hard work of their colleagues. There’s clearly a need to reduce numbers,” Lady D’Souza said, adding that the research “clearly shows there are people who are attending the House of Lords who are not contributing, and therefore they are simply redundant.”

Despite the good Lady's plea, it is a sure-fire certainty that these old lords will continue to claim their allowances in peace and for doing little or nothing in the service of their country for the remainder of their lives. 

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