Lord Speaker warns upper chamber needs more independent peers amid honours row

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The Lord Speaker has renewed concerns that Parliament’s upper chamber needs more independent and expert peers amid ongoing controversy over the appointments process.

Lord McFall told The Guardian an “eagle eye” must be kept on the composition of the House, which he said was in danger of falling “out of sync” with its balance of legislators.

It comes amid a row over plans by former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss to hand peerages to dozens of allies and donors.

Queen Elizabeth II death
Lord McFall with the King, Queen Consort and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle (PA)

“The House of Lords doesn’t challenge the House of Commons but it complements it, so the composition of the House of Lords has to be different from the House of Commons,” he told the paper.

Lord McFall is meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to urge him to lift the cap limiting the number of non-party expert peers that can be created by the House of Lords Appointment Commission (HOLAC) which is currently set at a maximum of two a year.

The threshold was imposed as a temporary measure by David Cameron in 2012 but has never been lifted.

From 2011 to 2022, HOLAC has created just 17 new peers out of nearly 400 in total over the same period.

The Lords is under renewed scrutiny after former prime minister Boris Johnson faced allegations of using it to reward “cronies” and continuing the appointment of wealthy party donors.

Tory peer Lady Mone has taken a leave of absence to fight allegations that she may have profited from PPE contracts worth more than £200 million after recommending a firm to ministers in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

And Ms Truss, whose 49 days in Downing Street made her the shortest serving prime minister in British political history, has reportedly been putting forward former aides and backers for a seat in the upper chamber as part of the honours a prime minister can recommend following their resignation.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called on her successor Rishi Sunak to block the nominations.

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