Pen­sion off peers at 80

166 could be kicked out of Lords by com­pul­sory new re­tire­ment age

Scottish Daily Mail - - TERROR ON THE TUBE - By John Stevens Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Editor

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

‘Patently ab­surd’

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.

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