Labour would not create hundreds of new peers, Lords leader tells MPs

The Conservatives outnumber Labour in the Lords, but Baroness Smith said her party would not create a flood of new peers if elected.

Labour is outnumbered by Conservatives in the House of Lords.
Labour is outnumbered by Conservatives in the House of Lords. (Leon Neal/PA)

Labour will not create hundreds of new peers to get its agenda through if it wins the next election, the party’s leader in the House of Lords has said.

Baroness Angela Smith told MPs on Tuesday that her party would not deluge the Lords with new peers, despite the Tories having 105 more members of the upper chamber.

Labour has previously suggested it would look to appoint more peers over time to increase its numbers in the upper house and ensure it did not become mired in rows over legislation.

But Baroness Smith told the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee she did not think there was “any room for having a massive increase in the number of Labour peers”, although she said she would like to “refresh” that number.

She said: “It’s been put to me time and time again that a Labour government would appoint hundreds of new peers. I can tell you a Labour government would not appoint hundreds of new peers.”

She added that her “ideal” solution would be “roughly equal numbers” between the government and the main opposition party, with the total number of peers reduced to be more in line with the size of the House of Commons.

Lord True, the Conservative Leader of the House of Lords, told the same committee he was not concerned about overall numbers, but thought the “balance” between parties was “not right”.

The House of Lords is one of the largest legislative chambers in the world, with 786 members eligible to attend proceedings, although average attendance is around half that number.

Membership has hovered about 800 since 2010, although the proportion of Conservative peers has steadily increased as successive prime ministers have appointed more Tories to the upper house.

Since the 2010 election, some 219 Conservatives have been appointed to the Lords, compared to only 84 new Labour peers.

There are currently 277 Conservative peers, 172 Labour peers, 180 Crossbenchers who have no party allegiance and 79 Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, with small numbers of representatives from other parties and 25 Church of England bishops.

Labour has said it wants to abolish the House of Lords, but has not previously ruled out creating more peers in the meantime to ensure it can pass legislation.

In June 2023, Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman said every new government looked to make appointments to the Lords but not in “one fell swoop”.