By Claire West
The House of Lords Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House has recommended that 'leave of absence' arrangements should be strengthened to encourage Members unable to play a full part in the work of the House to step down from active membership.
The report also recommends that Members should be able to take permanent voluntary retirement from the House of Lords.
The Group makes clear though that any mechanisms to allow members to leave the House of Lords permanently should not create any additional costs to the taxpayer.
On strengthening leave of absence, the report recommends:
At the start of each session of Parliament the Clerk of the Parliaments should write to members who have attended the House on three or fewer occasions in the previous session inviting them to take a leave of absence. Members who fail to respond to this letter should automatically be granted a leave of absence.
The period of notice required to terminate a leave of absence and return to active membership of the House of Lords should be increased from one to three months.
These improvements to the leave of absence mechanisms should be implemented immediately.
On voluntary retirement, the report recommends:
The House should introduce arrangements to allow members to retire from the House of Lords permanently on a voluntary basis.
The requirement for legislation to override a member’s Writ of Summons should not delay the early implementation of such a scheme.
The departure of members permanently retiring from the House following distinguished service should be marked in some way; perhaps by a ceremony in the Chamber.
Leaders of the party groups in the Lords and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers should take an enabling role in offering advice to those contemplating retirement.
Commenting on the report, Lord Strathclyde, Leader of the House of Lords, said:
'I welcome the Group's report and thank Lord Hunt and his colleagues for their work.
'Members of the House of Lords take their duty to the House and to its business very seriously. But we must recognise also that sometimes circumstances may prevent Peers from being able to exercise those duties. Therefore having mechanisms in place which allow them to stand back from the work of the House in a proper and orderly manner would be welcome.
'I am pleased that the Group also agree with me that any mechanisms to allow Members to leave the House must not create extra costs for the taxpayer. That is an important principle that must be maintained throughout the process.'