Tories dominate list of new peers in dissolution honours

New peers include former Tory MP who claimed expenses to clean moat at his manor house and banker who has given almost £3m to Conservatives

Twenty six Conservatives have been appointed to the House of Lords, including a former MP who claimed expenses to clean his moat, a City banker who has given millions to the party and a chief executive of a company criticised earlier this year for failing to pay the minimum wage.

Video: Meg Russell, the deputy director of the constitution unit at University College London, says David Cameron’s repeated new appointments to the House of Lords severely damages its reputation, and increasingly undermines its ability to function

They dominate a list of 45 new peers with former MPs, party advisers and donors included in appointments made to the Labour and Lib Dem benches as well as the governing party.

Douglas Hogg, who claimed expenses to clean his country estate’s moat, is among the former MPs who have been elevated. He stepped down from contesting the 2010 election after it emerged he had claimed £2,200 for the cleaning of the moat at his 13th-century manor house.

Douglas Hogg.
Douglas Hogg. Photograph: Getty Images

The banker is James Lupton, a financier who has given £2.8m to the Conservative party and is its co-treasurer. Lupton was also an active supporter of, and donor to Kids Company, the charity that recently announced its closure.

The chief executive is Ruby McGregor-Smith, of Mitie Group, who will also be elevated to the House of Lords months after signing a letter backing Cameron’s cuts programme. The outsourcing company MiHomecare, which is part of the group, has faced criticism this year for failing to pay care workers the minimum wage.

Also lined up by the Tories is Michelle Mone, the founder of the Ultimo lingerie brand, to become a peer just weeks after she was appointed as the government’s new entrepreneurship tsar for areas of high unemployment.

The arrivals will take the upper house to 826 members, further expanding the second most populous legislative chamber in the world. It is surpassed only by the National People’s Congress in China. The appointments are part of the dissolution honours list which are gifts from the former party leaders.

Cameron will be accused of attempting to pack the Lords with reliable supporters including Kate Fall, his deputy chief of staff, James O’Shaughnessy, a former head of policy at No 10, and Simone Finn, Francis Maude’s former special adviser.

Other former MPs elevated included Andrew Lansley, the architect of controversial NHS reforms in the early phase of the coalition government, William Hague, the former foreign secretary, and Sir George Young, the former Tory chief whip.

Anne McIntosh, the former MP for Thirsk and Malton who was deselected before the general election, will become a peer, as will David Willetts.

Labour peers include Tessa Jowell, the former culture minister who is standing for London mayor. She is joined by David Blunkett, the former education secretary, Peter Hain, the former Welsh secretary, former chancellor Alistair Darling and Ed Miliband’s former campaign director Spencer Livermore.

How the House of Lords looks after the latest additions

The Liberal Democrats have been given 11 more peers despite a poor showing in the general election and a promise to scrap the present second chamber. They include two ex-MPs rejected by voters three months ago: Lynn Featherstone, the former Home Office minister, and Lorely Burt, the former MP for Solihull.

Three long-serving party grandees, Sir Alan Beith, Sir Menzies Campbell and Sir Malcolm Bruce, will also be also ennobled. Former MEP Sharon Bowles and Nick Clegg’s former chief of staff Jonny Oates will join them.

The general election left the party with just eight MPs, and it now has 112 peers.

The announcement of the new peerages had been planned for July, but was delayed after the resignation of Lord Sewel, the peer who was allegedly filmed taking cocaine in the company of a sex worker.

Sewel’s alleged racist comments about Asian women and insults against fellow peers while holding a position in charge of the Lords’ standards and privileges prompted calls for further reforms to the upper chamber.

Despite the Conservatives getting more than half of the new peerages, the party is still at a relative disadvantage in the Lords – at least when compared with its majority in the Commons.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Whitehall’s appointments commission turned down seven nominees. They can be blocked if there is concern about their financial propriety or if their peerage is linked to a political donation.

Only 10 nominees have been blocked in this way in the past 15 years.

The government has already suffered a spate of defeats in the Lords over devolution, the EU referendum and English votes for English laws.

Before Thursday’s announcement, there were 781 peers in total. The Tories had 226 peers against 212 for Labour, 101 Lib Dems and 179 crossbenchers. At the current rate of growth, the chamber could soon have almost 1,000 occupants, according to critics.

Anthony Ullmann, the businessman and one of the Lib Dems’ most generous donors, will be given a knighthood. Ullmann has donated a total of £98,500 to the party, according to the Electoral Commission.

Ullmann’s gifts include £30,000 in the run-up to the general election to Nick Clegg’s constituency party in Sheffield, where the former Liberal Democrat leader faced a struggle to hold on to his seat.

He joins two former Lib Dem cabinet ministers, Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, who will also now be called “Sir”.

A slew of past and present Tory aides and advisers have been rewarded for their service with other honours. Oliver Dowden, a former Downing Street adviser and now MP, will be a CBE, as will Cameron’s operations chief Liz Sugg and George Osborne’s former chief of staff Rupert Harrison.

Osborne’s former media adviser Ramesh Chhabra and Hague’s former adviser Denzil Davidson are among those receiving OBEs for “public service”.

The lowest form of honour handed out by Cameron on Thursday, the British Empire Medal, has been given to other No 10 staff, in sharp contrast the higher awards handed to his political assistants.

Alison Depass and Marjorie Wallace, two catering assistants, and Paul Schooling, a gardener, all work in No 10 and will receive their medals for public service.

Prof Meg Russell, deputy director of the constitution unit at University College London, warned that unregulated prime ministerial appointments to the Lords were both costly and damaging to parliament. Including Thursday’s figures, she said Cameron had appointed 44 peers every year, compared with Tony Blair’s 37, Margaret Thatcher’s 18 and John Major’s 25 per year. Peers can claim £300 a day.

Labour’s leader in the Lords, Lady Smith of Basildon, said Cameron has appointed peers at a faster rate than any other prime minister since 1958 in the vain hope of “loading the dice” ahead of votes.

“Appointing new peers purely on the basis of them becoming voting fodder completely misses the point of the Lords constitutional role,” she said.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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