Peers' Expenses

Lord Soley

I agree with the broad thrust of Lord Norton’s comments below but I will not feel comfortable until our allowances and expenses are set by an independent body. That is what is now happening in the House of Commons with the creation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority  ( ).

Parliamentary sovereignty means that ultimately all recommendations of such bodies can be changed by Parliament but I suspect after the recent disasters it will be unlikely to happen very much. Members of the House of Lords are not paid and we are by international standards one of the cheapest if not the cheapest second chamber in the developed world but an independent body would mean we were rightly distanced from deciding our own expenses and allowances.

In my view it is a bad idea for Members to set their own allowances and then ask the tax payer to pay. I also suspect that an independent body would come up with rather better judgements than we do – we might even end up better off!

15 comments for “Peers' Expenses

  1. 13/03/2010 at 5:07 pm

    To be honest, I’m rather surprised that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority doesn’t cover both houses. I just assumed that because of the name – Parliamentary not Commons Standards Authority – that it would be dealing with the Lords as well.

    • Senex
      14/03/2010 at 5:08 pm

      GP: “To be honest, I’m rather surprised that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority doesn’t cover both houses.” Good question! Both Houses of Parliament are constitutionally obliged to deal with their own business.

      It all started on the last day of Parliament Nov 21, 1410 when the King, Henry IV, was in attendance. Both the Commons and the Lords had granted the King a lump of money or subsidy over a two year period by act of Parliament.

      In a manner not too dissimilar to the schism that resulted in the Parliament Act 1911 both houses could not agree on a money matter, i.e. the rate of purchase tax as a percentage rate on goods to be applied over a two year period.

      However, unlike 1911, the King was in attendance and he was not best pleased by the squabbling. So he evoked an ordinance, see link below, which the historian Cobbet translates:

      “That in all future Parliaments, in the absence of the King, it should be lawful as well to the Lords by themselves, as to the Commons by themselves, to debate of all matters relating to the realm, and of the means to redress them; without disclosing the same to the King before a determination made thereof, and that to be done only by the mouth of the Speaker. Which ordinance was made, because part of the aforesaid displeasure arose on an account of the Lords making the King, several times, privy to their debates on the subsidy, and brought messages from him; which the Commons said was absolutely against their liberties.”

      This is why both houses separated and must deal with internal money matters independently of each other. Least, that’s my slant on things but I stand to be corrected.

      Ref: Parliamentary History of England Vol 1.
      William Cobbet, 1806; Book Page 308, PDF Page 205
      Medieval Ordinance (Legislation)

  2. lordnorton
    13/03/2010 at 5:30 pm

    governing principles: There is also a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, though he covers only the Commons. I rather favour appointing him to the position of Lords Commissioner of Standards as well, so that there is the same person covering both Houses. I should add that expenses have, in effect, been set by an independent body – the Senior Salaries Review Body. All that the Lords has done has been to approve the recommendations of the SSRB. The problem has been with the rules governing expenses.

    • Gareth Howell
      14/03/2010 at 2:24 pm

      “Members of the House of Lords are not paid and we are by international standards one of the cheapest if not the cheapest second chamber”

      Sorting out the first two “Standards Commissioners” is difficult enough. So the suggestion is for a third.

      One of the first two seems to be two….othless.

      My own suggestion that Lords should pay a fee for membership set at a rate which would encourage commitment of a certain measure, say 50 days a year, would sort out a lot of criticism, and create more.

      If peers did not get attendance allowances until they had attended say for 25 days, it would be clear that there are fewer regulars than we imagine, even if 450 do turn up once or twice a year.

      Those who want to enjoy the facilities of the place, but not be involved in committee or debate would then be paying a membership fee of say, £3000/annum, without any obligations to join in chamber or committee debate.

      The whole thing should be worked out far more
      carefully by statisticians with all the detail before them of the use and abuse of the past.

      • Gareth Howell
        14/03/2010 at 2:28 pm

        Also if much of the house were an elected chamber, the deposit for standing in election could be set high enough for it to be a very effective membership fee, with a refund for the losing candidate(s).

        The question of attendance allowance (for 10 minutes) has been such a bone of contention for so long, with some hereds at one time, claiming DSS benefits AND the attendance allowance, that it really ought to be resolved once and for all.

  3. Wolfie
    13/03/2010 at 5:48 pm

    Members of the House of Lords are not paid and we are by international standards one of the cheapest if not the cheapest second chamber in the developed world

    The lords cost us 2000 pounds a minute. You’re just making wild claims without any justification as a distraction from the fact that you can’t manage the money taken from us, and have allowed peers to enrich themselves.

  4. Carl.H
    13/03/2010 at 5:53 pm

    My Lord I agree that the House does appear good value however appearances can be deceptive. I agree that members are relatively cheap, if you`ll pardon the expression, in comparison to business professionals in their fields which is why I favour a smaller house which is professional. I am in favour of paid secretaries, feeling the job requires it, I`m in favour of paying a reasonable salary to worthy employees but I cannot be in favour of an open ended budget. Limits must be set on the numbers in the House, budget dictates that and so does common sense. This is why the whole Upper House needs a floor up redisign.

    We need to know who is eligible and going to accept the job as a serious profession that requires dedication. Yes lots do but…!
    We need to set numbers and this is very important for reasons of independence and finance, Governments should no longer be allowed to raise up the ranks just to assert a majority.

    Having got the numbers we require we need to set out how these will be replaced, when and why they will replaced.

    I do not want to see a unicameral House as I feel the Commons does not give proper scrutiny and often independent views on Bills.

    The Day subsistence of £86.50 for a Lord is paltry in contrast with business professionals. Yes I agree there are various other methods and payments for obtaining more financially but isn`t that alone creating a system where one maybe more likely to do some creative accounting ? It needs simplification and Cranbourne money needs to go too. Finance should be per member, it shouldn`t matter that you belong to “X” party so get more, that`s absurd in a House we`re asking to be independent.

    It`s time to modernise and also equalise, no longer must the Houses be exempt from the law (except for that of libel or slander), no longer should one party be put before members in terms of finance and professional credibility (wash-up) and no longer should the public be forced to pay those raised for purely party political votes.

    I DO NOT want an elected upper House which will result in no more than a unicameral political slave dedicated to the legislature.

    • 13/03/2010 at 8:02 pm

      I agree in general with Carl H’s call for limits on the number of party-political peers. However, I would be willing to accept additional political peers elevated to imbue cabinet and government ministries with greater knowledge (e.g. Lord Adonis) as long as did not have voting rights. This is in acknowledgement that ruling party’s 300-odd MPs offer a limited talent pool from which to draw all the ministers needed to run the UK government.

    • Gareth Howell
      15/03/2010 at 5:49 pm

      They say that the US senate has similar problems of decrepitude of members.

    • Gareth Howell
      16/03/2010 at 8:12 am

      “This is why the whole Upper House needs a floor up redisign.”

      There is no reason why the best London club should not be situated in the same buildings as
      a unicameral parliament.

      I am merely thinking of the proper and profitable use of the Estate.

      Peers should pay for the privilege of belonging to be set against their attendance in the chamber for debate, of very limited value in any event.

      HofC does excellent scrutiny of its own which is always itself cross examined for competence and efficiency.

      A second chamber is not necessary for such scrutiny.

      The State opening of parliament might remain as a charming but archaic, redundant ceremony.

      The splendid buildings would be put to best use ONLY as the most expensive and best London club, expensive to those who use it, and not to the public at all, chamber without any responsibilities whatsoever.

      • Carl.H
        16/03/2010 at 1:17 pm

        “HofC does excellent scrutiny of its own which is always itself cross examined for competence and efficiency.

        A second chamber is not necessary for such scrutiny.”

        Excuse me whilst I quote from the Matrix.

        “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember — all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.”

  5. 13/03/2010 at 6:14 pm

    Who decides the salary of the Lord Speaker, Gvt Chief Whip etc (and Opposition), and Cranborne money, and should they all be under a new umbrella if not already?

  6. 13/03/2010 at 6:17 pm

    Lord Norton: I certainly agree with the idea of a single Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

    Two sets of standards, Lords and Commons, sounds like a recipe for another press blow-up. The press will just go looking for the gaps between the two systems. Due to the difference between the two houses, they obviously can’t have exactly the same rules but they have to be based on broadly the same assumptions/principles.

  7. Carl.H
    14/03/2010 at 12:56 pm

    I wrote the reply below to another blog that appears to have gone amiss for some reason it is still aprropriate I feel.

    My views are known by now I expect. The House of Lords operates under unfair and discriminatory working practices that would not be tolerated in the public environment.

    Control of the House is apparently Party Political being controlled by the “Usual Channels” which are I believe the party whips. From offices to dinner bookings, the wash-up and order of business deals are done through the whips.

    Approx 30% of the House, the Crossbenchers are ignored obviously not good enough it appears. This is outright discrimination; there are no other words for it.
    30%, plus backbenchers if my Lady is correct, of the House have no say at all in Bills put through the wash-up; the deals are done by Party Political whips. That isn`t democracy, that isn`t how the system was setup to fairly scrutinise legislation.

    How can the House be separatist, independent if it is controlled, to all intents and purposes, by the commons parties?

    How can I say as a watcher of the House that it offers fair scrutiny when it clearly doesn`t ? How can I say that the House practises what it preaches when it is clearly discriminatory?

    Even with Cranbourne money how is this fair, this is money given to the Opposition for Parliamentary business. Now judging by this Crossbenchers obviously do not do a lot.

    For the 2009/10 financial year, the rates payable to Opposition parties in the Lords are:

    £474,927 a year for the Conservatives
    £237,126 a year for the Liberal Democrats and
    £61,003 a year to the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers.

    Yet in numerical terms the Lords number:

    Labour 212
    Conservative 190
    Crossbenchers 207

    Oh yes and the Liberals, who apparently don`t do any business as they are left out of Cranbourne money, number 71.

    The Upper House certainly doesn`t appear that way, Upper, it appears firmly under the boot of the commons parties.

    The House needs, must have, independent administration and must be seen to be fair and just.

Comments are closed.