Pension off peers at 80
166 could be kicked out of Lords by compulsory new retirement age
A FIFTH of peers face being kicked out of the Lords under a dramatic plan that would force them to retire at 80.
A committee looking at cutting the size of the upper chamber is expected next month to recommend compulsory retirement for older members.
The proposal, which is likely to lead to a huge row, would see some of the country’s best-known politicians removed from Parliament. In order to win support for the clear-out – which would affect more than 160 of the almost 800 peers – those shown the door are likely to be allowed continued access to Parliament’s subsidised bars and restaurants.
A lump sum retirement bonus, equivalent to a year’s allowances, has also been mooted, along with an idea where a dozen peers aged over 80 are given a reprieve based on a vote of their colleagues.
Tony Blair’s purge of nearly all hereditary peers in 1999 saw membership of the Lords cut from 1,330 to 669 mainly life peers. But successive prime ministers have stuffed the red benches with new appointments, making the chamber the world’s second largest – beaten only by the People’s Republic of China.
Since 2010, 288 new peers have entered the Lords, with David Cameron appointing members at a faster rate than any other prime minister since life peerages began. Currently around 100 of the 798 peers are aged over 80, with that number expected to stand at 166 by 2020.
Octogenarians who could face the axe include former Tory Cabinet ministers Lord Lawson, 85, Lord Baker, 82, and Lord Heseltine, 84, as well as ex- Commons speaker Baroness Boothroyd, 87.
The Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House was set up after peers agreed unanimously in December last year that their numbers should be reduced.
Lord Fowler, the Lord Speaker, has previously expressed his desire for the chamber to ‘be at a number that is just less than the House of Commons’.
‘I don’t think that we can justify a situation where you have over 800 peers at the same time as you’re bringing down the Commons to 600 MPs,’ he said last September.
His six-member panel, which is led by former Marks & Spencer chairman Lord Burns, has been given the task of ‘exploring methods by which the size of the House can be
reduced’ that would ‘ command broad consensus’ from peers. Under a proposal being examined, peers would be forced to retire at the end of the Parliament in which they turned 80.
As well as considering ways to make a compulsory retirement plan palatable for their colleagues, the committee has been looking at how it would affect the balance of the House. The Lords already has a problem with having an in-built anti-Brexit majority, as well as a disproportionately large number of Liberal Democrat members compared with the Commons.
A source told the Daily Mail that the plan to force peers to retire after they turn 80 was ‘more than likely’ to be included in the final proposals that will be published in a few weeks. Peers have been able to retire since 2014 when the House of Lords Reform Act was passed into law. However, just 68 members have stood down since then.
Baroness Trumpington, who is the oldest female member, has told parliamentary authorities she will retire next month, close to her 95th birthday. The oldest and longestserving member is former foreign secretary Lord Carrington, 98, who took his seat in 1945 after serving in the Second World War.
Commons Speaker John Bercow has called for the number of peers to be halved to around 400.
He said: ‘One can argue the toss about the size of the House of Commons, but as far as the House of Lords is concerned, it’s frankly patently absurd that the House of Lords is significantly larger than the House of Commons.
‘I don’t say that in a spirit of machismo or personal or institutional pride... but we are the elected chamber.’ Mr Bercow said there was ‘a very good argument for a second chamber’ that gives MPs pause for thought, but ‘it could most definitely be halved in size – and I think most fair minded people would say, it should be’.
Earlier this year it emerged a Lords probe into peers who claim thousands of pounds in perks but do not do any work was dropped amid fears of a backlash.
Baroness D’Souza, a former Lord Speaker, spent months investigating peers who claim a £300 daily allowance without making any contribution in the Upper House, but scrapped the research to avoid ‘naming and shaming’ offenders.