The Lord Speaker has urged the Prime Minister to stop creating “mass” peerages and labelled the size of the upper chamber “ridiculous” following the nomination of 36 appointees.
Boris Johnson was accused of “the worst kind of cronyism” after putting forward his brother Jo Johnson, several Tory grandees and his chief strategic adviser for peerages, while numerous Brexit-backers are also set to head to the Lords after Downing Street revealed its new list on Friday.
Lord Fowler, the Lord Speaker, said Mr Johnson was encouraging “passenger” peers by failing to tackle the size of the Lords, which will have almost 200 members more than the Commons with the new intake.
According to reports, 88 peers – one in nine – have not spoken, held a Government post or participated in a committee, while 46 have never recorded a vote.
It follows a report by Lord Burns in 2017 which proposed the number of peers be reduced to 600 – a move backed by the unelected House.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Fowler lamented the U-turn on the promise by Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor at Number 10, to use “restraint” in appointing members to the Lords.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Fowler said: “I do think the Prime Minister has got to stop these kinds of mass appointments because I think the public are unimpressed with it, I think most of us in the House of Lords are unimpressed with it and it is not necessary – we don’t need a House of Lords of 830.
“I mean, it is ridiculous because it is far too many for the duties… we have very important duties to carry out in terms of the governance of this country but we don’t need 830 people to do it – that’s the plain fact and everyone knows that is a fact.
“What you are doing is encouraging some in the House of Lords who are quite frankly passengers and don’t make much effort in any event.”
The swathe of fresh additions would act as a “disincentive” for senior peers to retire because their exit would have “no difference” to the numbers on the red benches given the Government’s regular increases, Lord Fowler predicted.
SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Pete Wishart accused the Prime Minister of “handing out jobs for life” to friends and those “who have done him favours” after he granted peerages to his brother and former Tory minister Jo and his chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister, a long-term ally who supported him as London mayor.
Ex-England cricket player Sir Ian Botham, who supported the Leave campaign, newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev and former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson were also among the 36 new peerages.
Mr Lebedev, the son of a former KGB operative, owns the Independent and Evening Standard – and has long been a friend of Mr Johnson.
Mr Wishart said: “It’s the worst kind of cronyism that only highlights the rotten Westminster system that is detached from reality.”
But Mr Johnson did pick Conservative former chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond for peerages, after he stripped them of the Tory whip after they defied him over Brexit.
Lord Fowler praised the inclusion of Mr Clarke, who stood down at the last election after almost 50 years of service in the Commons.
“The one person I’m delighted who is coming into the House of Lords is Ken Clarke,” said Lord Fowler.
“There is a public servant who has done immense good for this country and is being recognised and actually, if you want someone who will go on taking an active part in politics and in the House of Lords, I think Ken Clarke is the ideal example.”
A government spokeswoman responded: “As has been the case under successive administrations, distinguished individuals are periodically appointed as peers to enable the House of Lords to fulfil its role as a revising and scrutinising chamber while respecting the primacy of the Commons.”