Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), wants the number of Lords cut and capped at 600 instead of the current 800. The report from the PACAC has called for urgent action and backs previous findings from the Burns report, which laid out proposals on reducing the size of the House of Lords. It argues the growing size of the Chamber is impacting on its ability to function as effectively as it should.
Conservative MP Sir Bernard said Westminster’s revising Chamber must not be allowed to grow “exponentially” and axing the 200 peers over the coming years was the “obvious step”.
He said: “The House of Lords is of vital importance to the UK’s political system, carrying out important scrutiny and revising functions, but it is a problem that the size of the Chamber continues to grow exponentially.
“My Committee is calling for the number of peers to be reduced, and then capped, at 600, as recommended in the Burns report.
“This is an urgent window of opportunity and the Government and other party leaders must seize this moment of consensus to ensure the number of peers is reduced to 600 over the years ahead.”
The committee of MPs have highlighted how the reduction rate proposed in the Burns report would take up to 11-years to implement.
It has called for party leaders to agree to strict retirement targets in order to accelerate reaching the new target.
MPs said a sharp fall in numbers could be achieved with a commitment from Prime Minister Theresa May following a “two-out-one-in” policy.
They have also called for a body to justify new appointments to the Chamber, which would be allocated to pparties based on their vote share in the most recent general election.
Sir Bernard, the MP for Harwich and North Essex since the 2010 general election, has also laid out plans for a new 15-year term for newly-appointed peers.
He said this was a “desirable but not essential” part of the recommended reform, but also described it as “perhaps the most radical element of the scheme”.
The PACAC chairman added: “The introduction of 15-year term limits for new life peers is perhaps the most radical element of the scheme and it will immediately create two classes of peer with all existing peers remaining appointed for life, and all new peers for a fixed term.
“There are members of both Houses who have been highly effective parliamentarians for far longer than 15 years, and this fixed term could remove peers at the peak of their effectiveness.”
But Sir Bernard said the proposals outlined by the committee would just be “a minimal incremental reform” and “will fall far short of the aspirations of many who wish to see abolition or an elected Upper House”.
He concluded: “Adopting this reform does, however, not remove the pressure for more fundamental reform of the second chamber.”
A spokesman for the Lord Speaker’s Committee said: “We are pleased the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have recognised the importance of the Burns committee recommendations to reduce the size of the House of Lords.
“We welcome their agreement that a capped membership of 600 is appropriate and new Members be appointed on a ‘two-out, one-in’ formula in line with general election results.
“In the first year since the Burns report was published, the House of Lords has met the recommended targets in reducing the size of the House but it is important that progress is maintained.”