Boris Johnson believes the size of the House of Lords needs to be addressed, Downing Street said, despite the nomination of 36 new peers in his dissolution honours list.
The list, which included the Prime Minister’s brother Jo Johnson, cricketer Sir Ian Botham and newspaper proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, prompted accusations of “cronyism” and of failing to respect efforts to reduce the number of peers sitting in Parliament.
Downing Street said new members were needed to ensure the upper chamber has “appropriate expertise”.
Lord Speaker Lord Fowler has accused the Prime Minister of U-turning on a promise made by Theresa May to show restraint in new appointments, with the result that there will be almost 200 more members of the Lords than the Commons.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It remains the case that the size of the House of Lords needs addressing but given retirements and other departures some new members are needed to ensure the Lords has appropriate expertise and it continues to fulfil its role in scrutinising and revising legislation.”
The spokesman said it was a “long-standing convention that individuals can be nominated for an honour or peerage in recognition of their public and political service and that prime ministers can draw up dissolution and resignation lists”.
He rejected Lord Fowler’s suggestion that some of the new peers would be “passengers” in the chamber.
“All of the individuals were nominated in recognition of their contribution to society and their public and political service,” the spokesman said.
Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Pressure is mounting for an overhaul of the Lords, after this shocking batch of cronyistic appointments.
“Even the Lord Speaker recognises that this situation is untenable and has completely over-ridden even the Lords’ modest attempts at self-regulation.
“At over 800 members, this bloated chamber is making a mockery of democracy.”