David Cameron’s honours abuse is ‘plain as a pikestaff’, says former speaker
The former speaker was praised for her 'brilliant' speech slamming Cameron's cronyism.
Baroness Boothroyd has declared that it is “plain as a pikestaff” that successive prime ministers are abusing their powers by elevating pals to the House of Lords.
The former speaker impressed fellow peer Lord Digby Jones with her “brilliant” speech in the upper chamber.
Lobby journalists in the chamber also gave the thumbs up to the “glorious rant” which came as peers unanimously backed reducing the size of the ever-expanding House of Lords last night.
Parliament will now decide how much to reduce the size of the upper chamber and which peers will go.
During the debate, Baroness Boothroyd accused David Cameron of tarnishing the reputation of the Lords by stuffing it with too many former aides.
The former prime minister recently used his dissolution honours list to reward financial backers such as Andrew Fraser, a hedge fund manager who had given £2.5m to the Tories. He also rewarded five people who had worked for him at Downing Street as political advisers - Gabrielle Bertin, Camilla Cavendish, Ed Llewellyn, Liz Sugg and Laura Wyld.
Baroness Boothroyd said: “The last Conservative manifesto commended us for addressing the size of the second Chamber and the retirement of Peers. Sadly, Governments tend to have short memories. David Cameron ignored his manifesto’s reference to our bulging size within three months. He inflated the size of this Chamber and—I believe—tarnished our reputation.
“In his Dissolution Honours List, 45 new Peers were introduced. The figures are there for all to see. Without the intervention of the Appointments Commission, the damage might have been even worse.
“That is one of the reasons why we need an Appointments Commission on a statutory basis with the powers to curb the unrestricted use of patronage that Prime Ministers currently enjoy. We cannot be easily abolished, as Prime Minister Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, found—but Downing Street can swamp us, and it has done so already.”
Warming to the theme, the former speaker and ex-Labour MP continued:
“I pay tribute to the work of the Appointments Commission and the thoroughness with which it interviews non-party nominees. But, for the life of me, I cannot comprehend why, when it is interviewing political nominees, it is not allowed to carry out the same rigorous interviews to ensure probity, experience, suitability and devotion to public service.
“To me, it is an affront when a Peer says that he thought his peerage was a reward for his success as a composer and he did not expect to attend debates and vote on policy issues. Likewise, No. 10 advisers sent here as lobby fodder who cannot speak do us a disservice.
“The mother of Parliaments is not mute!”
Baroness Boothroyd, who was speaker from 1992 to 2000, finished off with a plea to the current prime minister:
“The repeated abuse of Prime Ministers’ powers of privilege is as plain as a pikestaff. To my mind, it betrays arrogance, reeks of hypocrisy and has no place in a parliamentary system. The abolition of their untrammelled power is long overdue. Be gone, I say—and I hope Theresa May takes note.”
The next speaker in the debate had a rather more succinct contribution to make.
The Earl of Sandwich simply said: “I am sure she will.”