'Out of control' Lords complain they can't get paid during the pandemic
One peer claimed 'if you don't speak you don't eat'.by Andy Philip, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/andy-philip/
Moaning peers bombarded officials with emails about a cut to their daily allowance, exposing a "farcical" system at the House of Lords.
A series of complaints seen by the Record show deep unhappiness at being paid a reduced rate of £162 for speaking in debates.
One warned: "The present system is becoming farcical as Members queue up to make short interventions because as one put it to me, 'if you don't speak you don't eat'."
The financial reward for taking part in business was halved following a decision in May. And while some peers freely accept the system is open to abuse, others claimed they can’t get anything during the pandemic.
A Lords spokesman insisted the chamber is effective and the financial arrangements are temporary. But the SNP renewed calls for the upper chamber to be scrapped.
Most correspondence centred on concerns the system favours those that live in or near London.
One said: "Three members have discussed matters with me over the last week. Two have made it clear that they might have to resign and take up other work as the financial pinch is so horrible. Both are highly and instantly employable."
Another added: "I would be technically paying to participate in the Lords if I continue to attend in person, as additional cleaning bills would need to be added to my annual contractual flat rental costs."
In another email, a peer complained: "For those Committee members who don't have private wealth or a pension it is quite difficult as that time is obviously time when one can't do other work that we need to in order to pay the mortgage etc."
One unelected Lord said the leaders of main groups are effectively becoming "gangmasters" by picking who can speak and be able to collect cash.
Another noted: "This is not so much about loss of income, which is clearly very severe for some members but about the gross unfairness of operating a democracy on this basis."
One pointed out a lack of savings by some members: "Those who have spent their working lives in the charity sector or in public service will not have earned much over their careers so will probably not have been able to build up much in the way of savings."
The SNP's Rona Mackay claimed the emails, obtained by the party under freedom of information laws, are proof the Lords are "out of control".
She said: "These documents expose the total privilege and sheer arrogance of unelected Lords at Westminster.
"How dare these peers complain they aren't paid enough when thousands of people across Scotland are struggling just to make ends meet due to the financial impact of Coronavirus.
"These Lords are out of control - only Communist China has a bigger legislative body – and even more members of the privileged elite, like Baroness Ruth Davidson, will be skipping down the road to join them very shortly.
"It's time to put the brakes on this gravy train and abolish the House of Lords for good."
A spokesman for the House of Lords said: "Like everyone else, the House of Lords had to take some difficult decisions as a result of Covid-19. The issue of allowances is a complex matter and the Commission gave considerable thought to how to respond to this unprecedented situation, in the full knowledge that there were no easy solutions.
"The temporary allowance system that reduced allowance rates by 50% was considered appropriate for the changed circumstances where most Members were working from home. It was agreed by the House as a whole on 6 May 2020.
"The House of Lords is a highly effective and busy Chamber, performing a vital role of improving legislation and holding the Government to account."