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House of Lords members claim £300 a day 'for doing nothing', says former speaker

Life peer calls institution 'best day care centre for the elderly in London'

May Bulman
Tuesday 21 February 2017 10:19 GMT
Baroness D’Souza: There are 'many, many, many' peers who do nothing but claim full allowance

There are "many, many, many" members of the House of Lords "who contribute absolutely nothing but who claim the full allowance", its former speaker has claimed, prompting calls for a reform of the second chamber.

"I think that we have lost the sense of honour that used to pertain, and that is a great, great shame,” Baroness D’Souza told the BBC's Meet the Lords programme.

“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," she 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."

Insisting that there was a “core of peers who work incredibly hard,” Lady D’Souza admitted that there were “many, many, many peers who contribute absolutely nothing but who claim the full allowance”.

Former Liberal Democrat chief whip, Paul Tyler, also told the programme that Lord's was the “best day care centre for the elderly in London”

He said: “Families can drop him or her in and make sure that the staff will look after them very well, nice meals subsidised by the taxpayer, and they can have a snooze in the afternoon in the chamber or in the library."

Labour’s former home secretary, Lord Blunkett added: “You have got people who may well be, out of the patronage of the government of the day, rewarded for either keeping their mouth shut or opening their mouth or their purse at a particular moment in time.”

As a result of their claims, the Electoral Reform Society, which has been leading calls for a reform to the House of Lords, said "urgent" action must be taken to make it into a fully elected chamber.

“This provides more evidence that we urgently need to move to a fully elected chamber. Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse," said Katie Ghose, the organisation's chief executive.

“We already knew some peers claim their £300 without speaking or voting, but to hear this from the former Lords Speaker herself is astonishing and shows just how severe this problem really is.

“Baroness D’Souza has exposed a truly scandalous situation. The public are sick to death of this kind of behaviour.”

Responding to the documentary, a spokesperson for the House of Lords said: “The House of Lords is an active and effective revising chamber that considered 3,678 amendments to legislation in the last session, and members contribute to that work in a wide variety of ways.

"The forthcoming documentary Meet the Lords shows members doing exactly that. In the 2015-16 session, 710 members spoke in debates, 779 voted in divisions, and 321 were members of select committees.

"However, parliamentary work is not limited to these activities, and much of it would not leave a record in Hansard.

“All members have to certify that they have undertaken parliamentary work when claiming for attending the House. Where members are shown to have claimed when they have not undertaken parliamentary work the House has the power to suspend them - as in the case of Lord Hanningfield."

Peers debated the size of Britain’ upper chamber in November after David Cameron was accused of a “profligate” use of the appointments system on leaving Downing Street.

Lord Cormack, former member of Edward Heath’s Conservative administration, told The Independent at the time that the House was "well on its way" to reducing its size.

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