PRIME MINISTER David Cameron has been accused of packing the House of Lords with cronies after unveiling 26 new Tory peers and showering his aides with other honours.
Some 45 people are joining the upper chamber in the dissolution list - with the Liberal Democrats getting 11 more places despite being routed at the General Election and Labour eight.
New members include William Hague, the former Richmond MP and ex-Foreign Secretary, as well as Mr Cameron’s long-standing “gatekeeper” Kate Fall. The ex-Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton, Anne McIntosh, who was embroiled in a bitter row after she was de-selected before announcing she would stand down at this year’s General Election, has also been named.
Tory grandee Douglas Hogg, who came under fire during the expenses scandal after it emerged he had filed a claim for cleaning the moat at his country home, was also elevated.
The Electoral Reform Society said the influx of new peers - taking the active membership to over 800 - would cost the taxpayer at least an extra £1.2m a year.
“At a time when the Government is talking about reducing the cost of politics, this announcement is an expensive insult to the public,” chief executive Katie Ghose said. “The expansion of the Lords - part of the constant arms race to pack the chamber with loyalists, whichever party is in power - shows the system is well and truly bust.”
The total of new peers could have been even higher, but the appointments commission rejected seven nominations - five from the Tories and one each from the Lib Dems and DUP. Labour’s peerage nominations, made by Doncaster North MP and former leader Ed Miliband, include ex-Sheffield Brightside MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett as well as fellow Cabinet ministers Peter Hain and Dame Tessa Jowell.
Meanwhile, a host of coalition special advisers have been awarded CBEs, OBEs and MBEs, and the Downing Street gardener and two catering assistants have been given the British Empire Medal .
Mr Cameron has dismissed calls to revive efforts to slash the size of the House of Lords and make it mostly elected, which stalled in 2012 after a rebellion by Tory backbenchers. Instead he has said he wants to focus on ensuring the political balance in the Lords is similar to that in the Commons.
But Shadow Cabinet Office minister Lucy Powell added: “At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, people will see this as the Tories putting their cronies before the country.”
Ex-ministers featured heavily on the Conservative list, with Sir George Young, David Willetts and Greg Barker joining Mr Hague and Mr Lansley in the Lords. Former Number 10 policy director James O’Shaughnessy is becoming a peer, as is Iain Duncan Smith’s ex-special adviser Philippa Stroud and Tory Party vice-chairman Kate Rock - a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne. Conservative donor and former vice-treasurer James Lupton has been granted a peerage, as has businesswoman Michelle Mone.
Lib Dem former chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and ex-business secretary Vince Cable get knighthoods, after apparently turning down the chance to go to the Upper Chamber.
The party’s peerage list, put together by ex-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Sheffield Hallam MP, is dominated by MPs who stood down or lost seats during the election rout. Ex-leader Sir Ming Campbell is among those entering the Lords.
The sleaze watchdog which rejected seven peerage nominations does not have a veto, but none of its assessments has yet been overruled.
David Laws, who quit as Treasury Chief Secretary and was suspended from the Commons for seven days in 2010 over breaches of expenses rules, was the Lib Dem who failed the vetting process. Other names remain confidential.
Parties have the chance to replace rejected candidates with substitutes - but David Cameron offered only one additional name, meaning the Tories ended up with four fewer peers than had been agreed.