As new appointments are criticised, has the House of Lords become an embarrassment?

 
Katie Ghose
Should we feel pride or embarrassment at the House of Lords?

Katie Ghose is chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, says Yes

We already have the largest chamber in the democratic world and yesterday’s expansion highlights why nobody else has a chamber like it.

The growth in size – part of the never-ending arms race to pack the House of Lords with supporters – costs us millions of pounds extra each year in tax-free allowances.

At a time of economic belt-tightening, the addition of 45 new peers will cost us at least £1.2m more. But what are we getting for this money?

Over a third of peers previously worked in politics and many of them picked up their ermine robes after losing elections.

Across the chamber, almost half live in London or the South East, while there are just two peers under the age of 40.

This is a shockingly unrepresentative institution.

The Prime Minister said he “regrets” not reforming the Lords in the last Parliament.

It’s time for him to act – stop packing the House with his supporters and finally fix our broken upper chamber.

Harriet Maltby is government and economic policy researcher at the Legatum Institute, says No

Many functions of an effective legislature are best achieved outside the short-termism of the Commons.

No chamber is perfect, but the Lords fills an important role.

It does excellent work in scrutinising secondary legislation from government and Brussels.

It is hard to see how the Commons could do this constructively, especially given the political toxicity of Europe.

The Lords is an important environment for debating worthwhile issues which aren’t prioritised by government.

The fact that the government can now amend its own rushed bills is concerning, so the non-partisan scrutiny of the Lords is important in protecting against the tyranny of bad legislation.

Its size does not undermine these functions, but widens the pool of experience that can be called upon.

The Lords carries out an essential role and does so well.

We should feel pride, not embarrassment, at its efficacy.

Read more: Government shows appreciation to business world with peerages

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