House of Frauds: A Political Dinosaur


£360,000. That’s how much members of the House of Lords claimed in expenses despite not voting even once in the last parliamentary term. Who paid? Who else but the taxpayer.

The upper chamber of Parliament spends most of its time debating new legislation, one of its chief functions. Part of the reason why they remain un-elected is to be able to do this efficiently without worrying about public backlash. Yet, we have some peers who do not vote once in 5 years, but claim £360,000 of the taxpayers money. This is the taxpayer’s money, being used to pay expenses for those who don’t do their job. Something about that is strikingly worrying.

Peers don’t receive a salary like members of the Commons do but are able to claim £300 a day for merely turning up. The House of Lords cost the taxpayer over £93m to run in 2013-14. Cameron’s plans to appoint yet more peers will cost £1.3 million a year. This all comes to a huge bill for the public to see knowing who is footing the bill. One that looks even more gargantuan given the cuts in the name of austerity. The public cannot be blamed for feeling hard done, and once again alienated from the world of politics.

Yet the expenses claimed aren’t the only thing that is worrying given the incredibly unrepresentative nature of the House. For an appointed body, the demography of the chamber is entirely inaccurate in reflecting the country. Only 24% of the House are women. To date, only 2 peers are under the age of 40. In 2012, a quarter of the chamber were former politicians, with David Cameron announcing peerages for his political cronies such as William Hague, the house looks more like a politicians retirement home than anything. In a nutshell, the chamber looks absolutely nothing like Britain does. It can’t be right that a modern day democracy has such an unrepresentative legislature. We ought to remember that this is an appointed body; the excuses for it being unrepresentative of Britain are wholly unacceptable. 

If not representative of the nation, perhaps they are the independent experts, the watchful overseers, and protectors of the people, which we hope they are. Unfortunately, of the 781 peers, only 179 are crossbenchers. Most of the chamber are affiliated to a party which significantly reduces their impartiality and role as independent overseers. One of the strongest arguments in favour of retaining an un-elected upper chamber is their value as independent overseers. The fact that such a small number are non-party affiliated throws that argument into serious question. 

What should be done about the House then? We could have the upper chamber elected, similar to the U.S Senate. But this brings with it many constitutional questions which could throw the country into turmoil. Reform of the House of Lords need not be radical. The issue is not of constitutional functionality, but a lesser one of representation and public relations. The chamber should be cut down, made to be more representative of the people, and more a body of experts than party affiliates. Such reforms would address the major issues of the House of Lords and bring it less criticism from the general public. 

The House of Lords is almost growing out of control. It is a political dinosaur. The only legislative body in Europe which remains un-elected. With more members than it can even seat, the house looks and feels a world apart from the average person. And that is the crux of why many people feel a justified sense of disparity between politicians and themselves. In essence, the House of Lords embodies everything people hate about politics. Just how exactly do we enable an elitist House to embody trust and democracy? 

(Figures correct as of 28/08/15) 

By: Masrur AhmedHistory student from east London. Twitter: @Masrur_95

Student Voices does not fact-check / verify facts claimed in opinion articles.

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