House of Lords memberships and roles are to be investigated in the wake of the controversy surrounding Boris Johnson’s resignation peerages.
MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will launch the inquiry, it has been confirmed. William Wragg, who chairs the committee, will examine whether the current appointments system produces an effective and trusted chamber and whether the rules governing that process could be improved.
The Tory MP for Hazel Grove took aim at the former Prime Minister in a blistering Commons speech in April last year when he said he could not reconcile himself to “the PM’s continued leadership of our country and the Conservative Party”. Mr Johnson’s full honours list was published shortly before he resigned on June 9, sparking a political row with Mr Sunak when MPs Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams were omitted.
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Mr Wragg said: “Debates about wholesale reform of the second chamber have been around for decades, but this inquiry seeks to consider the immediate questions, that cannot wait for such reform, before they are addressed.”
Among the seven nominees in the long-awaited list were Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and Charlotte Owen, a former adviser to Mr Johnson.
Recent days have also seen Tory politician Shaun Bailey face calls to turn down his peerage after a video emerged of a mid-lockdown party at Conservative Campaign Headquarters. The powers of House of Lords Appointments Commission (Holac), as well as the size and role of the second chamber, will be among the issues considered by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry.
The cross-party committee will examine whether the current appointments system produces an “effective and trusted” upper chamber, with MPs also looking at the relationship between the Lords and the Commons. There have been long-standing concerns over the expanding size of the second house, with Labour pledging to abolish the Lords if it wins power at the next election.
Wragg said: “The House of Lords plays an important constitutional role in the UK political system but there has long been concern about its size, membership and the appointments process.
“Previous inquiries from parliamentary committees concluded with clear recommendations to reduce the size of the chamber and reform the appointments process to maintain confidence in the Lords.
“The Government committed to review the matter, yet five years on we have seen no sign of reform, and large numbers of new members continue to be appointed.”
The committee will consider the possibility of reforms to the appointment system and whether changes are needed to the role and powers of Holac.
MPs will also ask whether the size of the Lords should be reduced and whether a term limit might be needed for membership, as well as what “expectations should be placed on peers as regards participation”.
It comes amid concerns about the attendance record of some recently appointed peers.