Over on the Guardian’s Comment is free, Paul Tyler and Andrew Adonis say that the second chamber is costly and unrepresentative, and that only radical change will head off the abolitionists:
Whatever opponents say, the status quo is not a realistic option. When the majority of hereditary peers were excluded in 1999, Lords’ membership fell to 666. By the last election, it had risen to 706 and today it is 786. If those on leave of absence resumed their seats, the figure would rise to 807.
Since the pace of party political patronage outstrips that of the grim reaper, an increase in the number of peers to well over 1,000 is inevitable. Each new prime minister seeks to balance up the number of loyal supporters. Blair created 162 Labour peers, while David Cameron has already appointed 47 Conservatives. At each occasion, the prime minister feels obliged to appoint peers from other parties, so Blair appointed 62 Conservatives and Cameron has elevated 39 Labour supporters.
The coalition agreement promised new appointments to reflect the last general election result. Yet to do this, the prime minister would have to appoint enough peers to raise the number to near 1,100, all without appointing a single additional Labour member. If he did so, there would be justified anguish that he was “stuffing” the place with loyal followers.
In international terms, this is all absurd. Britain is one of only three countries with a second chamber larger than the first (the others are Kazakhstan and Burkina Faso). Yet just as parliament has voted to reduce the size of the Commons from 650 to 600, the Lords swells.