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Research published reveals that members of the House of Lords disproportionately come from London and the South East.
The figures, released in a paper by the New Local Government Network think tank, show that over 40% of all Peers live in either London or the South East, with large swathes of the country underrepresented, especially the North of England, the Midlands and Wales. The research shows that many major British cities have little or no voice within the Lords.
The figures also show that Peers based in London and the South East are some of the least likely members to attend the House of Lords whereas those living in the West Midlands, Wales and the North West are far more likely to take part in the business of the House, despite the considerable distances that they have to travel to get to London. Astoundingly, even Peers who register their main address as “Overseas” are more likely to attend the Lords than those living in London and the South East.
On average members of the House of Lords attend 37.79% of all debates, however Peers living in London only register an average of 32.71% and those in the south of England 36.17%. Peers from the West Midlands are the most attentive, registering an average of 50.20%.
Where members of the House of Lords live (please see page 11 of report)
Breakdown of regional location of Peers and attendance record (please see page 16 of report)
The figures are based on public records of where Peers have registered their primary address. In the report, NLGN criticises the House of Lords authorities for refusing their Freedom of Information request to publish information listing the first part of the postcode for each Peer’s primary address, needed to fully establish in which local authority area a Peer resides.
Chris Leslie, Director of New Local Government Network, said:
“The dominance of London and the south east in the House of Lords is not justified by their share of the country’s population. It isn’t fair that the Midlands and north of England are so poorly represented, and that our laws are being written without all corners of the country having a fair say.”
The authors of the report, James Hulme and Nick Hope, claim the figures demonstrate that large parts of the UK do not have a proportionate voice within the Second Chamber of Parliament:
“The House of Lords embodies a real and substantial gap in regional accountability and representation. The information we have suggests that many major British cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Belfast have little or no voice within the Lords. A significant north/south divide is apparent, with areas in the South enjoying far greater representation than those in the North. London has more Peers than the East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, Northern Ireland, North East England and Yorkshire and the Humber put together.”
The Government is currently consulting on reform of the Lords following the publication of the Lords Reform White Paper in July 2008. NLGN argue that a reformed chamber should be composed on the basis of fair representation in relation to the population of each region and nation in the UK.