Peers aged 75 or older should be stripped of their right to a £300 daily allowance for attending the House of Lords, the Northern Irish chairman of Westminster's sleaze watchdog has said.
Pressure to reform Parliament's Upper House has increased since Lord Sewel quit in the wake of drug and prostitution allegations, as well as reports that some peers are claiming allowances without contributing to debates. The controversy is expected to be fuelled further by the imminent appointment by David Cameron of a significant number of new Conservative peers, in a move which he has indicated is designed to redress the political balance in the Lords, but which will swell the 790-strong assembly.
Now the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Queen's University lecturer Lord Bew, has said peers aged 75 or over should lose their daily allowance. While his proposals would mean older Lords retaining their titles and their right to travel expenses if they wish to speak in the Chamber, it would end a system under which they can "clock in" to get the allowance without having to show they have carried out any parliamentary work.
After reports that 20 "silent peers" had been paid a total of £1.6m in the last five years while taking little part in debates, Lord Bew told the Sunday Telegraph: "If it is true that people are not contributing and just taking their money and behaving in a totally non-instrumental fashion, then this should solve the problem."
Lord Bew stressed that the proposal was his alone.
Belfast-born Lord (Paul) Bew teaches Irish History and Politics at Queen's University. He was involved in the controversial Boston College project to record interviews by former paramilitaries for posterity. He was an adviser to former First Minister David Trimble and earned his peerage for his contribution to the Good Friday Agreement.