Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, the millionaire novelist, has tabled an amendment to the Lords reform Bill which would, if passed, eject 150 life peers from the Upper Chamber.
He is proposing annual elections in which peers would decide who should be evicted. Lord Archer has already won the backing of Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords, and is likely to be supported by a powerful cross-party alliance of both hereditary and life peers.
The Government could easily overturn the amendment if it is passed, but Tories believe it would be embarrassing for ministers to have to defend idle peers in the Commons.
More than half the life peers appointed by Tony Blair since Labour came to power have missed at least a third of the votes. But many Tory peers are also poor attenders. A fifth of life peers of all parties turn up to the Lords only on one day a week or even less often.
Lord Archer said it was time to tackle the culture of complacency among appointed peers. When he was given his peerage by John Major, he was informed that he would be expected to commit himself to an "active role" in the Lords. Lord Butler, then Cabinet Secretary, told him this meant turning up for 75 per cent of the votes.
However, the Tory peer said it was clear that many of the current working peers do nothing like as much work and should be punished. "What example is this to the young when they go out and seek a job?" he said. "These are clearly people who only wanted the title in the first place."
The Government will face fierce resistance to its proposals this week. Lord Strathclyde detected "increased militancy", he said. "Everybody accepts that hereditary peers have come to the end of the road but the Government has failed to say what it plans to replace them with."
Lord Cranborne, who was sacked as leader of the Tory peers for negotiating a deal with the Prime Minister, has introduced a Bill seeking sweeping changes to the Commons. He wants to reduce the number of MPs to 400 and cause ministries to merge. The proposals would certainly be rejected by MPs.