Benn calls for 80% elected Lords

A candidate for the Labour deputy leadership has called for an 80 per cent elected House of Lords and for party leaders to lose the power to nominate peers.

Hilary Benn, the international development secretary, said the vast majority of people in the upper House should be elected and the remainder co-opted by members on the advice of an independent appointments commission.

His ideas are far more radical than the draft plans drawn up by leader of the Commons Jack Straw. He suggested a 50 per cent elected Lords, and said parties should have the right to nominate peers as long as they were vetted by an independent commission.

They come amid growing concern about politicians’ influence on membership of the Lords in the wake of the loans for peerages row. Parties are accused of offering seats in the upper House in return for contributions to their funds, although they deny this.

“I think we ought to have a very largely elected House of Lords, I voted for 80 per cent when we last had a vote in parliament,” Mr Benn told BBC One’s Sunday AM.

“I think there might be a case for having a small proportion of people in the second chamber co-opted by the elected members on the basis of perhaps the advice of independent appointments commission, so there would be legitimacy.”

He said: “What I don’t think we can have in future is party leaders of whatever colour nominating people to serve in the second chamber, and that’s why we’ve got to push ahead with reform of the House of Lords.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the joint parliamentary committee looking into House of Lords reform, Lord Cunningham, said he believed the upper chamber should be either wholly elected or wholly nominated.

“My personal view is that I think the second chamber should be left largely appointed or wholly elected, but I personally don’t see any logic, sense or practicality in having some kind of half-appointed, half-elected divided chamber,” he told the BBC.