Lords regular and irregular

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High-profile peerages do not always live up to the promise; not all those who have been awarded life peerages attend the Lords with the regularity that might have been expected.

According to the latest statistical analysis by the House of Lords, Baroness Thatcher attended only six of the 142 sitting days in the parliamentary year to November 1995.

On the Labour side, Lord (Richard) Attenborough attended the Lords on only five days.

Other part-timers include Lord Deedes, the Telegraph journalist and former Tory minister, who attended the House on two days; Lord Young of Graffham, a member of the Thatcher government, who attended on four days; Lord King of Wartnaby, former chairman of British Airways, who attended on 26 days; Lord Menuhin, the violinist, who did not attend at all; and Lord Sieff, former chairman and managing director of Marks & Spencer, who has also not taken his oath during the current Parliament.

Altogether, at the end of July, there were 1,195 peers in the Lords, of whom 81 are women, and 378 were created under the Life Peerages Act 1958.

The most dedicated Conservative life peer appears to have been Lord Boyd- Carpenter, the former minister, who missed just one day's attendance in the last parliamentary session.

The most dedicated Labour life peers would appear to be Lord Cocks, the former Labour Chief Whip; Lord Peston, the economist and Opposition spokesman in the Lords; and two former MPs, Lord Molloy and Lord Graham - who all attended on every day the House sat.

On the Liberal Democrat benches, Lord Harris of Greenwich, the former Labour Minister, missed only two days. The most dedicated hereditary peers were Lord Monkswell, who is a Labour peer, and Viscount Simon, a crossbencher, who also attended all 142 days.

As for the cost (pounds 23.8m in 1994-95, of which less than pounds 6.5m was expenses) the Lords represents good value for money - if its democratic function is accepted. And many would argue that because it is free of the slavish submission to the whips so regularly seen in the Commons, it is more likely to defeat the Government.