UK Politics

Absentee peers should retire, say colleagues

The House of Lords
Image caption Peers are not currently allowed to retire

Peers who rarely turn up to the House of Lords should be asked to retire, according to some of their colleagues.

Of the 83 peers interviewed about whether members of the Lords should be allowed to retire, most backed moves to allow them to do so.

Some suggested retirement should be compulsory - particularly for those with a poor attendance record.

In 2009-10, 79 peers did not attend at all and more than 200 appeared less than 50% of the time.

The Lords' Leaders Group is looking into "options for allowing members to leave the House of Lords permanently" - and has asked more peers to come forward.

In its interim report it says there is a "consensus" that the House of Lords is too big.

It said most members favoured having some way of allowing peers to leave the House permanently - partly due to a shortage of seats, pressure on offices and admin services, costs and because of the risk to its reputation of having absentee members or those who "are clearly no longer able to contribute constructively to the work of the House".

'Greatly valued'

Among suggestions so far are provisions for voluntary retirement - or compulsory retirement. Some peers suggested there should be upper age limits of somewhere between 75 and 88, which others opposed on the grounds wisdom and experience would be lost to the Lords. Another suggestion is for a fixed term for peers of between 15 or 20 years.

But the report notes that the most "widely suggested" option was to penalise those whose attendance record fell below a certain threshold - unless they were struck down by illness.

However others argued that would penalise those who could only attend every so often because of "commitments in other walks of life" but whose contributions were "greatly valued when they did attend".

Figures published by the committee showed that, in the last parliamentary session, 289 peers were present for 75% or more of the time, 135 for between 50% and 74% and 103 for between 25% and 49%.

Peers keep their titles for life and are currently not allowed to retire from the House of Lords - although they can choose not to turn up.

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