House of Lords is 'London's best day-care centre'

media captionSome peers 'contribute absolutely nothing'

The House of Lords is the "best day-care centre for the elderly in London", a Lib Dem peer says in a new BBC documentary.

It also features a claim by the former Lord Speaker that many peers contribute "absolutely nothing" to Parliament.

Baroness D'Souza claimed one peer kept a taxi running outside while signing in to collect the £300 allowance.

The Lords said it was an "active and effective revising chamber" with a "robust" code of conduct.

Meet The Lords, which is shown on Monday at 21:00 GMT on BBC Two, combines interviews and fly-on-the-wall footage of the Upper House.

One of the interviewees, Lib Dem constitutional spokesman Lord Tyler, jokes: "It is the best day care centre for the elderly in London, families can drop in him or her 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."

'Great shame'

Lord Tyler told the BBC the Lords was "not very representative", with more peers aged over 90 than under 40.

Baroness D'Souza suggested the "sense of honour" that used to come with being a member of the House of Lords had been lost.

She said there was a "core" of peers who work "incredibly hard", but "many, many, many" who do not.

"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.

"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 honour that used to pertain, and that is a great, great shame."

What is the House of Lords?

image copyrightTop Hat/Andy Bailey
  • As the second chamber in the UK Parliament, it helps make and shape new laws
  • It also scrutinises the work of government and questions ministers
  • There are currently about 800 members, although not all of these regularly take part in debates
  • Most are "life peers" put forward by the prime minister
  • There are also Church of England archbishops and bishops and hereditary peers

Two former cabinet ministers, Labour's Lord Blunkett and Conservative Lord Tebbit, said too many people were given peerages for offering support to the government of the day.

"Far too many people have been put in here as a sort of personal reward," Lord Tebbit said.

"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."

A House of Lords spokesman 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."

He said that in the 2015-16 Parliamentary session, 710 members spoke in debates, 779 voted and 321 were members of select committees.

Members can be suspended where they are found to have claimed an allowance without carrying parliamentary work, he added.