The House of Lords exposed: 'I hope to play a much fuller role from next year...'

Radical proposals to reform the House of Lords are set to shine a light on those peers with low participation in debates or votes

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Indy Politics

As radical reform of the House of Lords is set to return for debate by MPs, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent has identified prominent peers who vote and speak infrequently in the upper chamber.

Click here to view the graphic "In Numbers: The House of Lords"

* Lord Parkinson, a former member of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet and former chairman of the Conservative Party, has not contributed to a debate in the last decade; neither has he voted this year. He voted on four days in 2011 and claimed a total of £3,600 in attendance allowances. The peer, a director of two property companies, did sponsor a lunch in the Attlee Room for the Engineering Industries Association last June. Lord Parkinson was unavailable to discuss why he had not voted more; the Conservative Party said he declined to comment.

* The former Labour Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown has voted once in the last 12 months and last contributed to a debate in 2010. In September last year he hosted a dinner for 16 guests from FTI Consulting – a firm he chairs – in the Attlee Room. Lord Malloch-Brown's attendance record is not known. He declined to comment and took leave of absence from the Lords on Monday.

* Baroness Fritchie, a crossbench peer and former civil servant, has taken part in three debates since her enoblement in 2005; she spoke most recently in 2007. She has not voted in 2012, although she was a frequent voter last year. In June 2011 she hosted a dinner for the internet registry Nominet, which she chairs. Her attendance record is not known and she was unavailable to comment.

Under proposals likely to be in the Coalition's House of Lords Reform Bill peers who fail to attend for at least 50 per cent of sitting days could be made to stand for re-election.

Members of the House of Lords are not obliged to attend or to engage in debates or to vote if they do. Some do not consider themselves to be full-time politicians and only turn up when areas of interest to them are debated; others spend time sitting on committees in the Lords. Lords' attendance is not publicly available; the fact that allowances are not claimed does not necessarily mean they have not attended.

Peers whose futures may be uncertain under the proposed reforms include household names such as the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, who has never voted according to the Public Whip site, although he has taken part in one debate this year. He declined to comment, but a spokesman pointed out that he had never claimed an attendance allowance.

Lord Heseltine, who was Deputy Prime Minister under John Major, has voted 24 times in 1,429 votes since his enoblement in 2001 (1.7 per cent). He spoke in one debate in 2012, the first time since joining the Lords in 2001. The Conservative Party said he declined to comment.

The former Labour Science minister Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the former chairman of the supermarket chain and the current chancellor of Cambridge University, last took part in a Lords debate in 2007 and has voted once since 2008. He declined to comment.

Lord Mogg, the chairman of the energy watchdog Ofgem, joined the Lords in 2008 and contributed to a debate on an Energy Bill in that year. He has not contributed since to a debate and has cast 11 votes out of a possible 429. He sponsored a lunch for the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011.

Lord Mogg told the Bureau: "I have many responsibilities that prevent my attendance in the House. I am chairman of Ofgem. In addition I am chairman of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators and the President of the Council of European Regulators. These positions greatly benefit Britain's influence on the evolution of energy policy, particularly at EU level but they do, unfortunately, take me away from London very frequently."

He intends to play a "much fuller role" in the Lords from next year, when his chairmanship of Ofgem ends, he said.

The former diplomat Lord Renwick, a vice-chairman of JP Morgan, has taken part in two debates since 2001; the last time was in 2008. He last voted in 2006. He hosted a school scholarship event in the Lords in May 2011. He told the Bureau: "If you have a full-time job it's very difficult to participate effectively. From the end of this year I'll have ceased to have a full-time job and will be participating regularly." Commenting on the event, he said: "I hosted a reception for which I paid. People contributed £7,000 for scholarships to St Paul's junior school."

A Lords spokesman said: "Members of the House of Lords are not full-time politicians. They come to Parliament from many walks of life, with backgrounds and busy careers in a wide range of sectors. This means that members can bring current and topical experience to debates on a range of subjects. A member might, legitimately, only attend the House, or vote, when there are items of business specifically related to their areas of knowledge and experience."