PEERS begged for extra cash during the Covid-19 pandemic after their daily allowance was cut to £162 per day, it has been revealed.

Unelected members had their tax-free payment reduced from £323 when the crisis hit, with only those who “actively participated” in debates eligible.

In emails released through a Freedom of Information request by the SNP, lords complain that they’re struggling to keep up with payments on their second homes, with others threatening to resign because “the financial pinch is so horrible”. They inquired about a "harship fund" is set up to soften the blow.

Despite the coronavirus crisis coinciding with skyrocketing food insecurity among the UK’s poorest people, one peer complained the new rules are taking food out of their mouths, with members coining the phrase: “if you don't speak you don't eat”.

Astonishingly, a member even claimed the changes to pay are “not even minimum wage”. Minimum wage for a worker over 25 in the UK is currently £8.72 per hour. 

The complaints have prompted renewed calls to abolish the “out of control” chamber, with peers exhibiting “sheer arrogance” as millions across the UK face unemployment and poverty.

The anonymous emails were sent to the House of Lords Commission, the House of Lords Management Board and the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office.

One member hit out at “ignorant” journalists for reporting on expenses and said colleagues were considering resigning over the reduction in daily payments.

They wrote: “Whatever snide remarks may be made by ignorant journalists, or for that matter, others who ought to know better, the system is not being abused and out of sheer fairness, and having examined the operation over recent weeks, it would surely be fair as it would be if the Chamber were open, to allow those who seek to participate, to be remunerated.

“Three members have discussed matters with me over the last week. Two have made it clear that they might have to resign and take up other work as the financial pinch is so horrible. Both are highly and instantly employable.”

Another lord claimed that “a number of peers have been financially embarrassed by the present arrangements”, while others queried “if there was any chance of setting up a hardship fund for members in financial difficulty during this time?”

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A different email warned lords were struggling to keep up with payments on their second homes in London.

“I would be very disappointed to give up my lease and then find things back to normal,” the peer complained. "Yet none of us can be sure when normal will arrive. So this is an uncomfortable financial worry. It would take an awful lot of interventions in proceedings to make a dent in a member's monthly rent.”

Another unelected House of Lords member moaned that the new arrangements were bad for democracy: “This is not so much about loss of income, which is clearly very severe for some members but about the gross unfairness of operating a democracy on this basis.”

One member acknowledges that the rules are exploited, but suggests the reduced daily rate was affecting their ability to afford basic necessities.

They wrote: "I fully accept that a small minority of peers abuse the allowance system, attending the Lords, claiming the allowance but rarely if ever contributing.

“The present system is becoming farcical as Members queue up to make short interventions because as one put it to me, ‘if you don't speak you don't eat’".

The SNP condemned the comments as insensitive and indicative of a broken system.

MSP Rona Mackay said: “These documents expose the total privilege and sheer arrogance of unelected Lords at Westminster.

“How dare these peers complain they aren’t paid enough when thousands of people are struggling just to make ends meet due to the financial impact of coronavirus.

“These Lords are out of control – only Communist China has a bigger legislative body – and even more members of the privileged elite, like Baroness Ruth Davidson, will be skipping down the road to join them very shortly.

“It’s time to put the brakes on this gravy train and abolish the House of Lords for good.”

A House of Lords spokesman defended the “highly effective” chamber.

He commented: “Like everyone else, the House of Lords had to take some difficult decisions as a result of Covid-19.

"The issue of allowances is a complex matter and the Commission gave considerable thought to how to respond to this unprecedented situation, in the full knowledge that there were no easy solutions.

“The temporary allowance system that reduced allowance rates by 50% was considered appropriate for the changed circumstances where most Members were working from home. It was agreed by the House as a whole on May 6, 2020.

“The House of Lords is a highly effective and busy Chamber, performing a vital role of improving legislation and holding the Government to account.”