THE House of Lords "provides excellent value for money", a Conservative minister has insisted after MPs criticised the institution.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis praised the expertise the unelected chamber offers when considering legislation and other matters.

It was also claimed there is “no link between party donations and nomination to sit in the House of Lords” after the SNP raised questions about so-called cash for honours.

Earlier this month the Metropolitan Police were urged to investigate honours given to past Conservative Party treasurers after donations of as much as £3 million to the party. The force said there were “not sufficient grounds” to investigate.

According to figures from the Electoral Reform Society, the cost of running the House of Lords increased to £117.4 million in 2018/19.

All peers are entitled to £323 each day, tax-free, just for signing into the Chamber.

The House is the world’s second largest parliamentary Chamber, surpassed only in size by the Chinese National People’s Congress.

Speaking in the Commons, Kettering Conservative MP Philip Hollobone urged the Government to reduce the size of the Lords.

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He said it is “good to have a bicameral Parliament”, but added: “Isn’t the fundamental problem with the House of Lords that it is simply too large and not enough of them turn up?

“There are 800 peers compared to 650 MPs, and in the divisions in this month alone the average turnout was 378, which is 47%.

“Will the minister consider reducing the size of the House of Lords?”

Cabinet Office minister Nigel Adams said retirements and other departures mean “some new members are essential to keep the expertise and the outlook of the Lords fresh”.

He added: “We are encouraging more retirements there and the Government’s 2019 manifesto, of which he will be aware, did commit to looking at the role of the Lords, but any reform needs to be considered carefully and not just done on a piecemeal basis.”

Conservative MP Huw Merriman said it was absolutely fair to propose reform but criticised the SNP for “denigrating those who work incredibly hard to improve our legislation”.

Cabinet Office minister Ellis accused opposition MPs of making “cheap political points”, but the SNP’s Richard Thomson replied: “It’s hardly a cheap point when it’s about expensive donations.”

Anum Qaisar, SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, asked: “Does the minister not agree that having an unelected, crony-stuffed second chamber undermines the UK’s ability to not only claim itself as a functioning democracy but to lecture others on other democracies?”

Ellis replied: “The House of Lords provides expert counsel, it provides excellent value for money.

“If the honourable lady wishes to compare the House of Lords and the cost to the public expenditure with other second chambers in bicameral legislatures, she will find it is extremely inexpensive, it is extremely expert and it provides excellent value for money.”

Earlier, SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Brendan O’Hara referenced Boris Johnson’s appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee last week.

He said: “The Prime Minister replied, ‘until you get rid of this system by which trade union barons fund other parties we need to continue with this system by which public-spirited people give donations’.

“I believe that the Prime Minister’s answer comes dangerously close to an admission of selling peerages in direct contravention to the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act and is worthy of further investigation.”

He called on the UK Government to investigate or refer the matter to the Metropolitan Police if it was “sufficiently serious”.

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Adams replied: “The answer to his question is no. One of the most valued aspect of the House of Lords is the experience those members are able to bring to their work they do.”

To laughter from the SNP benches, he added: “The idea that successful people and philanthropists who contribute to political causes should be disqualified from sitting in the legislature is nonsense. There is no link between party donations and nomination to sit in the house of Lords.”

SNP MP Richard Thomson also questioned Adams about the perceived cash-for-honours culture, later saying he had come "about close as anyone will ever get outside of a police interview" to obtaining an admission that it was established practice.