In this year’s dissolution honours, the Liberal Democrats were awarded 11 peerages, three more than their total number of MPs. Since this brought the party’s roll call of Lib Dem peers to 112, sceptics have been quick to point out that this number appears to be at odds with the party, which had previously prided itself on reforming the ever-growing House of Lords.
Happily the whiffs of hypocrisy haven’t stopped Lib Dem peers from grumbling about the crowded upper house. Yesterday Lord Rennard — the Lib Dem peer who was readmitted to the party last year after facing suspension over allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women — decided the time was right to call for a ‘moratorium on further appointments’:
Lord Rennard: Does the Leader of House agree that there should be a moratorium on further appointments to this House until sensible measures are agreed to reduce its size and that seeking consensus through a constitutional convention, involving all parties, is the best way forward for reform of this House in the long run?
However one Tory peer was having none of it. Baroness Stowell of Beeston pointed out that given his party’s recent behaviour, his call to stop further appointments was ‘a little surprising’:
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I find it a little surprising that the noble Lord suggests—particularly from his Benches—that there should be a moratorium on appointments to this House. It is very important that we continue to refresh the membership of the House, and the new Peers who will be joining us over the next few weeks will add greatly to the work it does. I do not agree with the way forward proposed by the noble Lord: radical reform was tried in the last Parliament. We stood on a clear manifesto and I am now looking forward to talks with other party leaders, informed by things like the debate on this topic scheduled by my noble friend the Chief Whip for next week.
Perhaps Lord Rennard should lead by example and do his bit to reduce numbers by standing down?