For some years, there has been concern — voiced frequently in the media — about the size of the House of Lords. In 2016, there were 824 members, significantly fewer, it should be noted, than before the removal of most of the hereditary peers by Tony Blair in 1999, but nevertheless significantly more (by nearly 200) than in the Commons. An all-party select committee was established in the Lords to review the position. Its report proposed that the House should work towards a membership of 600 over time. By early July 2020, it had fallen to 792. On 31 July, 36 new peerages were announced; they make Lords larger than in 2016. Alistair Lexden commented on the implications in a letter published in The Times on August 3.
Sir, It seems we are going back to the days of mass peerage creations, begun by Tony Blair and continued by David Cameron who nominated 639 people (including me) between them. Over their premierships new arrivals in the Lords averaged nearly 40 a year, a volume seen before only during Harold Wilson’s second term, from 1974 to 1976. By contrast David Lloyd George, widely thought of as recklessly profligate, created peers at the quite modest rate of 16 a year.
Theresa May’s government brought restraint with 43 creations in three years. But in one year Boris Johnson has now added 57. His new list takes the Conservative total in the Lords to 263, against Labour’s 179. This would have to be rebalanced if Labour returned to power as it would need a large influx to get its legislation through. The prospects of stabilising, let alone reducing, the overall size of the House of Lords do not look good.
House of Lords