“WE in the House of Lords are never in touch with public opinion. That makes us a civilised body.”

Oscar Wilde’s witty line from A Woman of No Importance no doubt raised a titter in the 1890s when the Upper House revelled in its inherent elitism, but having an institution in 2017 which is such a drain on the public purse is no longer a laughing matter.

Echo columnist Chris Moncrieff this week hit the nail on the head when he declared it scandalous that 16 Lords’ members each pocket a £300 attendance allowance without attending any debates or votes. They are nothing less than ermine-clad benefits cheats.

With 799 members, the Lords is the world’s second largest legislative body after China’s People’s Congress. Plans have been tabled to trim this bloated figure by a quarter over the next decade. This does not go far enough.

If one were starting from scratch today, one would not create the present House of Lords.

Too much of its membership is a result of cronyism and accidents of birth.

Under resignation honours rules for example, an outgoing PM can nominate scores of people to receive peerages. This is a perfect example of the Lords’ vague connection with the lives of most British citizens. It’s hard to imagine another place of work where the boss who has been forced to resign gets to reward their cronies to keep his or her legacy alive.

By all means have a second chamber to keep the Commons in check but all we need is a couple of hundred people from a cross-section of society. None should be nominated by political parties and, while we’re at it, let’s do away with lavish expenses. Sitting in the Upper House and playing a key role in the democratic process should be sufficient reward.