‘Eccentric’ House of Lords takes perks but contributes ‘nothing’ - former Lord Speaker
In a new BBC documentary that aims to shed light on the extravagance of the Upper Chamber, Lady D’Souza said, although a “core” of the 805 peers work “incredibly hard,” there are “many” who fail to carry out their duties.
During the program, D’Souza describes the tendency of peers to squander their taxpayer-funded allowance, including one unnamed peer who kept a taxi waiting while he popped into the Lords.
“I can remember one occasion when I was leaving the House quite late and there was a peer – who shall be utterly nameless – who jumped out of a taxi just outside the peers’ entrance, left the engine running,” D’Souza said.
“He ran in, presumably to show that he’d attended, and then ran out again while the taxi was still running.
“So I mean that’s not normal, but it is something that does happen and I think that we have lost the sense of honor that used to pertain, and that is a great, great shame,” she said.
However, D’Souza herself was criticized for questionable expenses, after she made a driver wait four hours while she attended Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana with the Chairman of the Federation Council of Russia.
D’Souza ordered a chauffeur who charged £230 despite the opera being just a mile from the Houses of Parliament.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tyler, who believes peers in the House of Lords should be elected rather than appointed or inherited, also features in the documentary.
He said the House is not “representative” of the wider population, as there are more over-90s than under-40s.
“It is the best daycare center for the elderly in London, families can drop in on him or her and make sure that the staff will look after them very well, nice meals subsidized by the taxpayer, and they can have a snooze in the afternoon in the chamber or in the library,” he said.
The House of Lords, which helps shape laws after they are sent from the House of Commons, is made up of around 800 members, most of whom are ‘life peers’ appointed by the prime minister.
Tory Lord Tebbit said the number of peers serving government is excessive.
“Far too many people have been put in here as a sort of personal reward,” Tebbit told the BBC.
“You wouldn’t have imagined Mrs. Thatcher wanting to give a peerage to Denis Thatcher’s tailor or something like that.
“But we have come pretty close to that in recent years,” he said.
The House itself claims that it is an “active and effective revising chamber” with a solid code of conduct.
Baroness King of Bow used the documentary to defend the chamber, even arguing that it does more work than the Commons.
“Look at what the Lords does and what the Commons does, and the comparative legislative chaos that is being sent from the Commons to the Lords, and I genuinely think, thank God the Lords are there to do the serious work, without just being inundated with the political point-scoring,” the Baroness said.