A new investigation by the Sunday Times and Open Democracy has shed light on the extent to which the UK Government appears to routinely offer seats in the House of Lords to a select group of multimillionaire Tory party donors.
The investigation found that, over the past 20 years, all sixteen of the Tories’ main treasurers (excluding the most recent) gave more than £3 million to the Conservative Party and were subsequently offered a seat in the House of Lords, with one former Tory Cabinet Minister admitting that “peerages are being used as lures.”
These latest allegations are considered particularly serious, given that unlike other honours such as knighthoods, peers carry out an influential role in the legislative process as the Upper House of the UK Parliament.
Since Boris Johnson became PM over two years ago, there has been an explosion in the number of new peers in the House of Lords, taking its membership to over 800 unelected members, thus making it the second largest parliamentary chamber in the world and costing the taxpayer an estimated £120 million per year.
New peers include billionaire Baron Cruddas, who was nominated by Boris Johnson in December 2020, despite the House of Lords Appointments Commission unanimously recommending that the PM rescind his nomination due to the Baron’s previous donation of almost £2.7 million to the Conservatives.
Mr Johnson subsequently became the first PM in history to ignore the Commission’s advice when he pressed ahead with nominating Baron Cruddas; only three days after his swearing in, the latter gave the Tories a further £500,000, taking his total donations to almost £3.2 million.
The latest allegations come only days after No 10 attempted to save Tory MP Owen Paterson from suspension for using his position to lobby for two private firms paying him £100,000 a year by trying to rip up the Commons disciplinary process.
SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson commented:
“It is deeply disappointing but hardly surprising that a UK PM, who believes he is immune to abiding by any rules or laws, is accused of trading political influence for cash by appointing peers who donated to his political party.
“The undemocratic House of Lords should have been abolished many decades ago. However, this is not in the interest of the Tories, nor the Labour Party which has also handed peerages to at least two major donors.
“I am now more hopeful than ever that the people of Scotland will soon decide to shake off this archaic and broken system so that we may together build a modern, democratic state, in which everyone in power is accountable to the electorate.”