The Electoral Reform Society have released a devastating analysis of the state of the House of Lords in 2017 – revealing the ‘democratic crisis’ at the heart of the Lords.
The Audit coincides with a key Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday calling for reform of the upper house  –
It follows a report from the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House  suggested moving to a still-unelected, 600-member house by 2028. ERS polling found that 88% of people believe the Lords should be smaller than 600 members .
The findings have spurred the ERS to call for substantive reform of a ‘crumbling, crony-packed chamber’, with The High Cost of Small Change: The House of Lords Audit revealing:
"72 peers failed to speak in the chamber, table a written question or serve on a committee at all in the whole of 2016/17. 33 of them claimed a huge £462,510 (an average of £14,015 each).
New analysis shows the 33 expenses-claiming ‘couch potato peers’ took part in just 24% of votes – meaning they claimed an average of £746 per vote.
Recent analysis by the ERS shows 109 peers made no spoken contributions - with 63 of these claiming a total of £1,095,701 in expenses.
The ERS is calling for a proportionally-elected upper house of 300 members.
In 2015, the ERS launched House of Lords: Fact vs Fiction , showing that in the 2010-2015, £360,000 was claimed by peers in years they failed to vote once. Yet the problem of inactive peers appears to have worsened significantly.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“Despite some minor reforms, the problems of Britain’s broken upper house continue to fester. With nearly one in ten unelected peers failing to contribute in key ways – despite many of them picking up large sums – we have a democratic crisis in our second chamber.
“The vast majority of party-affiliated peers toe the line, while many Crossbench peers simply don’t turn up. The so-called ‘independent’ chamber is packed full of party loyalists.
“The past few years have seen one expenses scandal after another, with peers turning up to claim without substantially contributing. We have seen a barrage of appointments based on patronage. And we’ve seen Peers themselves admit they treat our upper house as a retirement home, a private members’ club. This is no fit state for the Mother of all Parliaments.
“This report lays bare the rotten state of this unelected second chamber – from couch-potato peers to lobby-fodder lords. We need real reform now – not tinkering around the edges.
“Politicians must now meet the challenge before this crumbling, crony-stuffed house declines even further. Voters want real change. It’s time for both MPs and peers to embrace it.”
The report concludes:
“The second chamber is demonstrably in need of serious reform. Whether it is the thousands claimed by inactive peers or the dominance of defeated politicians, it is clear that until we let the light in, the rot within the Mother of all Parliaments will only get worse.
“We must see parties commit to a far smaller, proportionally-elected upper house. At a time of significant constitutional, economic and political change, the need for an effective House of Peers or Senate is overwhelming.
“Whatever the final details [of an elected upper house], the principle remains: those who vote on our laws should be accountable to those affected by those laws. As we have shown, that is a matter both of principle and pragmatism.
“Now is no time for minor tinkering; the public call for a real overhaul is loud and clear. Let’s get on with meeting our democratic duty - and give voters the revising chamber Britain needs.”
A copy of the report available to view here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/HoL-2017-Audit.pdf