The size of the House of Lords has been exercising observers and peers for some time. The membership has grown substantially, or rather the active membership has done so. The current membership is not that much different to what it was in 1948, but the active membership is something in the order of seven to eight times larger. It will almost certainly grow in size following the general election with new creations. What is overlooked is the loss of some members.
Every year, the House loses some through death. Since the start of last year, twenty-five have died. These have included such well known figures as actor and director Richard Attenborough, novelist P. D. James, DUP leader Iain Paisley and, most recently crime-writer, Ruth Rendell. Less well known, but notable, figures were George Mackie, a wartime fighter pilot (described by one peer, as I recall, as ‘the bravest man I ever met’) and Beryl Platt, a pioneering female engineer.
However, numbers have also been reduced as a result of the provisions of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014, enabling peers to resign from the House. Already 16 peers have retired or are about to retire under the provisions of the Act. (You can find the latest list here.) Most have opted to retire after giving long service and while still active in the House. They include former Law Lord, Tony Lloyd (Lord Lloyd of Berwick), former Home Secretary, David Waddington, and Bill Tenby (Viscount Tenby), grandson of Lloyd George. In the new Parliament, another provision of the Act – removing from membership those who never attend in a session (as long as the session lasts at least six months) – will take effect and so should remove from membership peers who are inactive.
Although new creations may well exceed the number who are going, at least there is some movement to reduce the size of the House.