‘Cats’ composer Andrew Lloyd Webber quits House of Lords, says he’s too busy for Brexit

Lloyd Webber was given a peerage in 1997 but has not spoken in the House of Lords this year and only voted occasionally

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 1:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 7:30pm

The theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber has quit as a Conservative peer, saying his busy schedule is incompatible with the demands of the House of Lords with crucial Brexit legislation ahead. Lloyd Webber, whose musicals include Cats and Phantom of the Opera, was given a peerage in 1997 but has not spoken in the House of Lords this year and only votes occasionally.

In a letter sent to the Conservative chief whip, Lloyd Webber said he was currently in the busiest period of his career, including long periods in the US, which meant he was unable to commit to attending key votes in the future.

“I have been privileged to be a member of the house for 20 years and resign with a heavy heart, but in the knowledge that what is expected from a member today is very different from what it was when I joined the house in 1997,” he wrote in the letter.

“I have a work schedule stretching ahead of me that is the busiest of my career to date. This means it would be impossible for me to regularly vote or properly consider the vitally important issues that the House of Lords will face as a consequence of Brexit.”

Records show Lloyd Webber has not contributed to the Lords more than a handful of times a year over the past decade and has voted in just 2 per cent of votes in the house. The composer, whose wealth is estimated at £650 million (US$860 million), said: “I feel my place should be taken by someone who can devote the time to the House of Lords that the current situation dictates.”

In 2015, Lloyd Webber was criticised for returning from the US to vote against a Lords amendment that would have delayed then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s tax credits cut for three years. Despite his vote the amendment passed.

His last speech in the chamber was in July last year, soon after the EU referendum, warning of the dangers of a breakdown of European cooperation.

“By quitting Europe, I fear that we are hastening Putin’s dream of the break-up of the EU – and with it, potentially, western civilisation,” he said at the time.

The composer largely confined his parliamentary activity to the arts and funding for creative industries and education, but other topics have been eclectic, including advertising hoardings and prostate cancer.

Lloyd Webber currently has two shows touring the US – School of Rock and Love Never Dies – as well as three shows playing on Broadway.

School of Rock and Phantom of the Opera are also running in the West End. The US broadcaster NBC is making a live-action version of his musical Jesus Christ Superstar to air in Easter 2018, which will be produced by Lloyd Webber and co-creator Tim Rice. Lloyd Webber’s autobiography, Unmasked, will be published in March 2018.

Downing Street declined to comment on Lloyd Webber’s resignation.