David Cameron announces 26 new Tory peers amid 'cronies' claims
David Cameron has been accused of packing the House of Lords with cronies after unveiling 26 new Tory peers and showering his aides with other honours.
Some 45 people are joining the upper chamber in the dissolution list - with the Liberal Democrats getting 11 more places despite being routed at the general election and Labour eight.
New members include former Conservative Cabinet ministers William Hague and Andrew Lansley, as well as Mr Cameron's long-standing "gatekeeper" Kate Fall.
Tory grandee Douglas Hogg, who came under fire during the expenses scandal after it emerged he had filed a claim for cleaning the moat at his country home, was also elevated.
The total of new peers could have been even higher, but the appointments commission rejected seven nominations - five from the Tories and one each from the Lib Dems and DUP.
Meanwhile, a host of coalition special advisers have been awarded CBEs, OBEs and MBEs, and the Downing Street gardener and two catering assistants have been given the British Empire Medal (BEM).
Mr Cameron has dismissed calls to revive efforts to slash the size of the House of Lords and make it mostly elected, which stalled in 2012 after a massive rebellion by Conservative backbenchers. Instead he has said he wants to focus on ensuring the political balance in the Lords is similar to that in the Commons.
The Electoral Reform Society said the influx of new peers - which takes the total active membership to well over 800 - would cost the taxpayer at least an extra £1.2 million a year.
"At a time when the Government is talking about reducing the cost of politics, this announcement is an expensive insult to the public," chief executive Katie Ghose said.
"Today's further expansion of the Lords - part of the constant arms race to pack the chamber with loyalists, whichever party is in power - shows the system is well and truly bust. The rapid growth in size and cost of our 'upper chamber' is a national scandal, and the sooner we sort out this mess the better."
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Lucy Powell said: "At the election the Tories said they would make the House of Lords smaller, but they have done the opposite, leaving taxpayers with a multimillion-pound bill for David Cameron's new peers.
"Time and again the Tories have rewarded those who have given them millions of pounds. At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, people will see this as the Tories putting their cronies before the country."
Former ministers featured heavily on the Conservative list, with Sir George Young, David Willetts and Greg Barker joining Mr Hague and Mr Lansley in the Lords.
Former Number 10 policy director James O'Shaughnessy is becoming a peer, as is Iain Duncan Smith's ex-special adviser Philippa Stroud and Tory Party vice-chairman Kate Rock - a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne.
Conservative donor and former vice-treasurer James Lupton has been granted a peerage, as has businesswoman Michelle Mone.
Lib Dem former chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and ex-business secretary Vince Cable get knighthoods, after apparently turning down the chance to go to the Upper Chamber.
The party's peerage list, put together by former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, is dominated by MPs who either stood down or lost their seats in the general election rout.
Former leader Sir Ming Campbell and ex-ministers Lynne Featherstone, Andrew Stunnell and Don Foster will be entering the Lords.
Mr Clegg's chief of staff in government, Jonny Oates, is also being elevated. Current Lib Dem leader Tim Farron insisted the party was still "committed to root and branch reform of the House of Lords".
Labour's peerage nominations, made by Ed Miliband, included former Cabinet ministers David Blunkett, Peter Hain, Dame Tessa Jowell and Paul Murphy.
The party's former campaign strategist - and key Gordon Brown aide - Spencer Livermore also becomes a Lord.
A slew of past and present Tory aides and advisers have rewarded for their service. Mr Cameron's former deputy chief of staff Oliver Dowden - now an MP - has been awarded a CBE, as have his operations chief Liz Sugg and Mr Osborne's ex-chief of staff Rupert Harrison.
Mr Osborne's former media adviser Ramesh Chhabra and Mr Hague's former adviser Denzil Davidson are among those receiving OBEs for "public service".
The Prime Minister's former spokesman Jean-Christophe Gray, a career civil servant, was awarded the CBE, as was political secretary Laurence Mann.
Mr Cameron's ex-speechwriter Clare Foges was handed an OBE, along with his constituency manager at his Witney seat Caroline Balcon, and Number 10 director of strategy Ameetpal Gill. The PM's diary secretary Lara Moreno-Perez was made MBE.
Downing Street gardener Paul Schooling and catering assistants Alison Depass and Marjorie Wallace were awarded the BEM for "public service".
Mr Clegg's constituency manager in Sheffield Hallam, Margaret Binks, and Mr Osborne's in Tatton, Phillipa Rudkin, were handed MBEs.