Saturday, 1 June 2019

Peers treat House of Lords like a "Gentleman's Club.

There are a number of apocrypha, stories , that a Welsh Labour MP  was only once recorded in Hansard over a number of years and that was to request that a window be opened.

It was certainly said about a Pontypridd MP Arthur Pearson , but he was a Labour whip and therefore did not take part in debates.

We do know however that a  Welsh peer claimed £50,000 without speaking in the House of Lords for 12 months.

According to the Western Mail

David Brookman, 82, was educated in Mommouthshire and was a steel worker in Ebbw Vale in the 1950's.
Lord Brookman attended the House of Lords on 157 days last year. At no point did he speak or serve on a committee. He did regularly vote during that time.
Part of the of the role of the House of Lords is to scrutinise bills coming from the House of Commons.
The figures come from a Guardian investigation which found the following over a 12-month period:
  • 88 peers – about one in nine - never spoke, held a government post or participated in a committee at all
  • 46 peers did not register a single vote, including on Brexit, sit on a committee or hold a post. One peer claimed £25,000 without voting, while another claimed £41,000 but only voted once
  • More than 270 peers claimed more than £40,000 in allowances, with two claiming more than £70,000
Lord Brookman did not speak or ask questions during those 12 months. According to the House of Lords website , he spoke three times on April 30, 2019 about the steel industry and again on May 22 this year.
However before this he had not spoken in the House of Lords since July 3, 2017.
He also claimed £50,000 in expenses during this same period.
The figures have drawn strong criticism of the institution which is entirely unelected with 92 peers still chosen on a hereditary basis.
Many campaigners are calling for an entirely elected second chamber.
Willie Sullivan, senior director at the Electoral Reform Society said: “This is a rolling scandal in the Lords that shows no signs of ending.
"Only two years since we unearthed similar findings of gross abuse and inaction while claiming, many unelected Lords are still treating our Parliament as a taxpayer-funded private members’ club.
“While many peers work hard, this system is ripe for abuse and some continue to use their positions to freeload on the public purse. Without the light of democratic scrutiny, peers can take advantage of the situation with impunity.
"At a time of huge national debates – from Brexit to climate change and social care – it beggars belief that so many are claiming large amounts while apparently failing to contribute. Yet voters have no way of kicking them out."
He added: "We urgently need to move to a fairly-elected second chamber where voters are guaranteed proper scrutiny, and key votes are not left at the whim of whoever can be bothered to show up."
When approached for comment by WalesOnline, a House of Lords spokesman said: “Members of the house are not salaried but may claim a daily allowance on days they attend the House in order to support them in their parliamentary work. Members are responsible for ensuring that claims they make are in accordance with the rules contained in the code of conduct.
If no parliamentary work is undertaken, no money should be claimed. The large majority of members take these duties seriously and undertake them with diligence.
“Members of the House of Lords are not full-time politicians, but they do bring a wealth of experience and expertise from outside Parliament. As with MPs, not all the work that members undertake is visible - much of it is done behind the scenes, researching issues and meeting campaigners and members of the public.
"For those whose external commitments elsewhere mean they cannot contribute as active members, a leave of absence is an appropriate way to take a break from the House and temporarily give up their right to take part in debates or claim any financial support.
“The House has itself recognised that it is currently too large, agreeing unanimously to endorse the report of the Lord Speaker’s Committee that recommended reducing the size of the House to a maximum of 600 members. Progress to reduce the size of the House has currently been maintained without legislation.” 
Lord Brookman declined approaches for comment.

It seems far to many Peers look at the House of Lords as a "Gentleman's Club"similar  to the
Garrick Club or Brooks's, where they can pop in use its facilities in this case subsidised by the taxpayer and get payed for it.

Its time to reform the Second Chamber hook line and sinker and replace it with an elected body where everyone actually woks as a legislature  and not a retirement bonus.

No comments: