Many members of the Conservative Party’s lords bench seem to be taking indefinite strike action, Byline Times analysis suggests

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A third of Conservative peers in the House of Lords have not spoken in the chamber in months – despite the party demanding minimum service levels for public servants who plan to go on strike. 

On Thursday, ministers announced they would push ahead with plans for new anti-strike laws to enforce minimum levels of service in eight sectors, including the NHS, after a wave of strike action.

They plan to impose a “minimum standard” of service on employees working in areas like health, education and nuclear plants. Unions which fail to meet the minimum service levels during strikes could be sued by ministers and bosses for damages. 

But it has been met with claims of hypocrisy as Byline Times’ analysis of every Conservative peer’s speaking record reveals that similar minimum service levels do not appear to apply to Tory Lords — who could soon be pushed to vote for the new measures.

Of the 269 Conservative members of the House of Lords entitled to speak in the chamber, 87 have not spoken or submitted a written question in more than three months – nearly one in three (32%). 

Dozens of Lords HoldFossil Fuel InterestsMax Colbert

More than a fifth of Conservative lords (22%) have not spoken in the chamber in more than 200 days, 15% haven’t spoken in more than a year, and one in 12 (8%) have failed to contribute in more than 1,000 days (even when those who have never spoken in the chamber have been removed from the data). 

And six Tory peers, who are not on an official leave of absence, have not spoken in more than 2,000 days:

  • Lord (George) Magan of Castletown – declared bankrupt in 2020, still listed as a Conservative on the Parliament website but not on his Wikipedia page
  • Lord Glendonbrook, Michael Bishop – former owner of the airline BMI
  • Lord (Robert William) Dixon-Smith – apologised in 2008 after using the racist idiom “n* in the woodpile” during a House of Lords debate
  • Baroness (Diana) Eccles of Moulton – former media executive who also claims nobility through her husband being a viscount
  • Baron (William) Waldegrave of North Hill – Provost of Eton
  • Lord (Julian) Fellowes of West Stafford – Downton Abbey creator

The Scottish National Party’s constitutional affairs spokesperson Tommy Sheppard MP told Byline Times that its findings were “yet more evidence for the compelling case to consign this archaic and unaccountable institution to the dustbin of history”.

Tory peers are failing to offer even the bare minimum level of service in the House of Lords

Nancy Platts, Politics for the Many

Nancy Platts, campaign coordinator of the pro-reform trade union group Politics for the Many, said: “At the same time the Tory Government is pushing minimum service level legislations on workers – a move designed to do little more than crush unions’ ability to defend the interests of their workers – it’s clear no such commitment exists on the Tory benches.

“These figures show that Tory peers are failing to offer even the bare minimum level of service in the House of Lords with many failing to even speak for months on end, confirming what we have long known – that too many treat their seat in the Lords more like a private members club than a working legislative chamber. In doing so, they fail the public that they are supposedly there to serve.”

Last week, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said that the Government’s anti-union plans would leave working people “open to countless abuses”. 

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“Even the Government’s own advice suggests imposing minimum service levels on workers taking part in strike action may be illegal,” he said. “We need a complete change of approach in Downing Street – one that respects the right of workers to join unions and take strike action in the face of real terms pay cuts.” 

Neal Lawson, director of cross-party progressive group Compass, said the Conservatives were failing to “lead by example” on minimum service laws: “If the Tories aren’t prepared to lead by example and abide by the rules they themselves are proposing, then how can they expect everyone else to take these suggestions seriously? The House of Lords is showing it is not fit for purpose, and must be democratised if people are to have any faith in the system.” 

The Conservative Party did not respond to a request for comment.

There have long been calls for reform of the House of Lords, including slashing the size of the 800+ member chamber and moving to an elected upper house. Last March, the Byline Intelligence Team revealed that, of more than 1,000 members who have sat in the House of Lords since April 2015, 142 (14%) attended the Palace of Westminster on 25 days or less, with 58 having never attended the house during the period.

Note: This article was amended on 10/01/23 to correct an error about Lord Jackson. He was introduced as a peer in December. 

If you have a political or social story that needs telling, get in touch with Josiah Mortimer confidentially by emailing josiah@bylinetimes.com

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