Labour MP launches stunning attack on House of Lords where 'pantomime' peers 'dress like playing cards'

A Labour MP spearheaded a startling attack on the unelected House of Lords today, telling stunned senior peers the Upper Chamber was “indefensible”.

Campaigning backbencher Paul Flynn demanded major reform, insisting an overhaul was needed to bring it up to date.

He hit out at party leaders for packing the red leather benches with mega rich donors, political aides and party chums .

But one prominent peer defended the system of appointing independent experts before moaning of his £300 daily allowance: “That’s all we get.”

A total of 804 Lords and Ladies are crammed into the Lords, making it second biggest Chamber after China.

They dress in ermine
(Photo: Getty)

A panel of peers is examining plans for reform, including cutting the size of the House.

Speaking at a hearing of the Commons Political and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Mr Flynn began by paying tribute to the Upper Chamber for its role in scrutinising legislation put forward by MPs.

But he warned the Lords “cannot be respected any more as a Second Chamber”.

A “bemused nation is watching the ermine-clad antics” of peers on the BBC2 documentary Meet the Lords , which highlights how out-of-touch it is in 21st Century Britain, he said.

Mr Flynn added: “The position of the Lords is one that is indefensible in so many ways – the number of peers, the fact it is possible to buy a place in the Lords if you contribute enough (money) to any of the three main parties, it over-represents London and under-represents Scotland – and that’s going to get worse … all the problems that arise, all the illogical things that come from it.

MP Paul Flynn
Paul Flynn believes the House of Lords is a pantomime where peers dress as playing cards

“We’re all stuck with that now.”

Blasting the “apparent lax rules of conduct”, he taunted peers for “dressing like playing cards” and the “pantomime” names given to officials, asking: “What about Silver Stick-in-Waiting, does he still exist?”

Mr Flynn also pointed out that UKIP, which hoovered up four million votes at the 2015 general election, was “grotesquely under-represented” in the Lords, where it has just three peers.

SNP MP Ronnie Cowan said the system should be axed and replaced with a fully-elected Chamber.

But, giving evidence, Crossbench leader Lord Hope of Craighead, a retired judge, rejected calls for elections, saying it would deprive Parliament of expertise.

Appointed peers such as retired military chiefs, legal experts and top surgeons were too busy to seek a democratic mandate for their role as lawmakers, he said.

“Most of them, not all, would never dream of standing for election, partly because they don’t have the time to do that,” insisted Lord Hope, who has been in the House for 22 years.

And he also claimed the controversial £300-a-day attendance allowance peers pocket just for turning up was not enough to attract potential peers from the regions.

They only get £300. A day. Just for turning up.
(Photo: AFP)

“I’m very much in favour of something that would increase the representation from elsewhere than London,” he revealed.

“I travel down every week from Scotland and I’m dependent on my £300 to pay my accommodation.

“That’s all we get, apart from travelling costs.

“The question is, are people from Scotland or Wales and the remoter parts of England prepared to contribute to the work of the House, given that’s all they get out of it from the point of view of covering their costs, and the time and effort it takes to travel between the two places?”

The hearing came after former Lords Speaker Baroness d’Souza admitted she abandoned a probe into peers “clocking on” to trouser their allowance because it would lead to them being named and shamed.

The Mirror, which exposed the Lord Hanningfield clocking on scandal, is campaigning to scrap the unelected House of Lords .

The Mirror exposed Lord Hanningfield for “clocking on” – signing in so he could pocket cash
(Photo: Daily Mirror)

Lib Dem Lords leader Lord Newby called for a halt to all new appointments to shrink the House.

Labour Lords leader Baroness Smith, who voted for the Lords to be abolished when she was an MP, feared an elected Upper House could be seen as more legitimate as than the Commons.

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