A DECISION on whether lords will be able to claim their £323 stipend for turning up to work while working remotely during the coronavirus crisis is to be announced next week.

Reportedly some lords, who will begin working again today as Westminster reconvenes virtually, had been privately concerned that they will not be paid at all during lockdown.

Lord Speaker Norman Fowler, a former member of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, spoke to Radio 4’s Today programme this morning to say payment options will be considered and announced next week.

While he defended the idea of continuing to pay lords as they work from home, he admitted there was a “strong argument” for making sure peers can not claim their normal amount of cash for “sitting at home and simply watching proceedings”.

Asked about how a decision will be made, Fowler said: “We’ll be considering that next Monday, it’ll be a meeting of the House of Lords Commission which I chair, and we’ll look at the arguments. I think the only point I’d like to make and we haven’t made any decisions whatsoever on that, is a lot of peers work very hard for example on a select committee.

“If you’re on a select committee you spend some time, several hours, studying the papers, you then spend several hours at the meeting itself. At the moment if you do that on an outside visit you’re paid I think £150.”

He was cut off by the presenter, who said: “For joining a Zoom session of the House of Lords should there be any payment at all given people won’t have to leave their homes to do it?”

Fowler responded: “I think that’s a pretty strong argument isn’t it.

“But as I say I don’t want to preclude any discussion, I’m not thinking in terms that we should make a payment to people taking my advice and sitting at home and simply watching proceedings. It’s another case if you happen to be a member of a select committee taking evidence, preparing for that evidence. We’re going to have to go through all those points but we’re going through them on Monday with an open mind.”

The decision to reopen the House of Lords in private, rather than publicly like the new virtual Commons, has come under fire from campaigners.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Voters across the world expect to see the legislators they are paying: it’s a core part of democratic transparency. This seems to be another sign of the Lords failing to meet the democratic standards voters expect.

“The Commons has shown that broadcasting the mostly-virtual hearings is possible from Day one. It’s vital for democracy not to simply be done, but be seen to be done. Unfortunately, any kind of democracy is lacking in Britain’s out-dated second chamber. The Lords authorities must get to grips with this rapidly.”

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