Disgraced MPs who cheated on their expenses, a multimillionaire Tory donor, a group of back-room political fixers and an alcohol industry lobbyist have been ennobled by David Cameron, sparking renewed calls for root-and-branch reform of the House of Lords.
The 26 new Tory peers, along with 11 new Liberal Democrats and eight new Labour Lords, will take the membership of the Upper House to more than 800 – making it the second-largest legislative assembly in the world after the National People’s Congress of China.
The new members will cost the taxpayer up to £13,500 a day in expenses when the Lords is sitting. Of the 45 new peers, over 90 per cent were previously MPs, MEPs, councillors, former political staff or party figures.
Among the largest group are ex-MPs – 24 in total – almost half of whom had to repay, between them, some £55,000 in overpaid or unjustified expenses. They include Douglas Hogg who indirectly billed the taxpayer for the cost of cleaning his moat and tuning his piano at his country house. …
… Mr Cameron was also accused of hypocrisy after it emerged that he told the Commission in 2012 to appoint no more than two independent crossbench peers a year – while nominating hundreds of political appointees to the chamber himself. In the past five years Mr Cameron has appointed 236 new peers, of which only eight have been non-political Commission appointments. …
… Among the new Tory peers is James Lupton, a businessman who has given the Tories nearly £3m and is facing questions over allegations that he used his influence with ministers to persuade them to support the troubled charity Kids Company against the advice of civil servants.
Mr Lupton has admitted lobbying the Department of Education on behalf of the charity in the run-up to a £3m grant being awarded to it.
There is also an honour for Stuart Polak who has turned the Conservative Friends of Israel into a formidable fundraising machine for the Tories – with donations of millions of pounds from Britain’s Jewish community.
Mr Cameron has also chosen to honour a number of back-room political staff – by appointing some of them peers while giving others lesser honours for “public service”.
Two former Tory Downing Street aides Kate Fall and James O’Shaughnessy will go into the Lords along with Simone Finn, an adviser to the trade minister Francis Maude, and Philippa Stroud an adviser to Iain Duncan Smith.
Another new peer is Kevin Shinkwin – described by the Government as a “voluntary sector professional”. But for the last two years Mr Shinkwin has been working as a lobbyist for the Wine and Spirits Trade Association. Its website describes him as “a seasoned campaigner with a record of securing tangible outcomes”. …