Meet the Lords episode three

Catch up on all episodes of Meet the Lords on iPlayer.

The third episode of the BBC2‘s Meet the Lords is at 9pm on Monday 13 March. Go behind the scenes and find out more about the members, staff and work of the House in episode three.

Most members of the House of Lords are appointed for life ('life peers'), and members no longer inherit their seats. Many have a political background but many come from other professional backgrounds including medicine, the military, business, science and technology, the creative industries and the law.

Its members come from different social, political and professional backgrounds and most faiths and ethnic groups in the UK are represented. Many members remain active in their careers and apply this experience to their work in the House.

Key members of the Lords in episode three

The Lord Speaker

Lord Fowler is the third Lord Speaker. He was elected in June 2016, and is the first man to hold the role. The previous two Lord Speakers were Baroness D'Souza (2011-16) and Baroness Hayman (2006-11).

The Lord Speaker oversees proceedings in the Lords chamber and plays a key role in the Lords Administration. The Lord Speaker also acts as an ambassador for the Lords at home and abroad, explaining and promoting the work of the House of Lords and its contribution to the UK's parliamentary system.

Lord Speakers are elected by members of the House of Lords, and can serve up to two five-year terms. While in post, the Lord Speaker has no party affiliation and is not expected to vote. 

Art in Parliament

The Art in Parliament collection is of national and international significance, and reflects events and people which have made a difference to the political life of the UK.

Portraits of former Lord Speakers and former Lord Chancellors form part of the collection. Many are available to view in the Palace of Westminster and online.

Appointments to the Lords

Members of the House of Lords are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister. Some non-party-political members are recommended by an independent body, the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The independent Commission also vets prime ministerial appointments for propriety, including requiring nominees to complete a consent form declaring financial interests and conflicts of interest.

Size of the House of Lords

The Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House of Lords was established in the wake of the House agreeing unanimously on 5 December 2016 ‘that this House believes that its size should be reduced, and methods should be explored by which this could be achieved.’

The committee intends to offer the Lord Speaker advice on what might command broad consensus across the House and beyond. It is currently considering written evidence it has received on this issue.

Financial support for members of the House of Lords

Members of the House of Lords are not paid a salary. They can claim an allowance when they attend a sitting. To claim the allowance, members of the Lords must sign a declaration that they undertook parliamentary work. This can include speaking and voting in the chamber or sitting on a committee but it is not limited to these activities, and much of it would not leave a record in Hansard. Members can also choose to claim a reduced daily allowance of £150 or may choose not to submit a claim at all.

House of Lords Code of Conduct

Members of the House of Lords must sign an undertaking to abide by the House of Lords Code of Conduct at the beginning of each Parliament. The Code provides guidance on the standards of conduct expected of them in performing their parliamentary duties.

The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards is responsible for the independent and impartial investigation of alleged breaches of the House of Lords Code of Conduct. This includes investigating breaches of the rules on members’ financial support.

The current Commissioner is Lucy Scott-Moncrieff CBE. She was president of the Law Society of England and Wales from 2010 to 2013. The House can suspend and, if necessary, expel members for breaches of the Code of Conduct.

Members of the Lords work on behalf of the UK public examining draft laws, checking government action and investigating public policy, often persuading the government to make changes on a range of issues.

The 2015-16 session ran from 27 May 2015 to 12 May 2016, during this time:

  • 78 bills were introduced
  • 3,678 changes were considered 1,254 changes were made
  • 27 reports produced by the main committees
  • 710 members spoke in debates
  • 779 voted in divisions
  • 321 were members of select committees.

Role of the House of Lords - a second opinion

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent from and complements the work of the elected House of Commons – they share responsibility for making laws and checking government action.

The Lords plays an essential role in improving bills (draft laws): highlighting potential problems and ensuring they will be workable laws. The Lords sometimes reaches different conclusions on bills, and agrees amendments asking the Commons and the government to ‘think again’.

Because of the lack of a government majority, the more relaxed party discipline, and the fact that Lords procedures give members freedom to propose and debate changes (amendments), the House of Lords provides a second opinion to the Commons.

EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

The EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 26 January 2017. The text of a Bill (a draft law) must be agreed by both Houses of Parliament before receiving Royal Assent from the monarch, which passes it into law.

The EU Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 8 February, and had its key debate on the purpose and principles of the Bill on 20 February. Reflecting the interest of peers in this topic, over 190 spoke in the debate over two days. At this stage, Theresa May MP, the prime minister, observed proceedings from the steps of the Throne in the House of Lords chamber. She is entitled to sit there as a member of the Privy Council.

The next stage, committee stage, a line by line check of a bill, took place on the 27 February and 1 March. At this stage, there were two divisions (votes) on changes to the bill.  In the second largest House of Lords vote on record, members of the Lords inserted one change, to guarantee the rights of EU and EEA citizens legally resident in the UK after Brexit.

Report stage, a further chance to examine and change a bill, took place on 7 March. Members of the Lords made a change to the draft law to give Parliament a vote to approve any final deal with the EU. This was the largest House of Lords vote on record.

After passing third reading, a chance to ‘tidy up’ and close loopholes, the bill returned to the Commons for consideration of Lords changes (‘ping pong’).

The bill returned to the Lords for consideration of Commons amendments on Monday 13 March. Members of the Lords voted not to insist on their changes to the bill and it completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament.

Questions to government

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock queues to submit his oral question to the government.

A 30-minute oral question time takes place at the start of business in the chamber from Monday to Thursday, with four questions posed by members. They can be on any subject – local, national or international – for which the government is responsible. A government spokesperson, usually a minister, must answer each one. Once the government spokesperson has answered, there is then a chance for a short exchange of related, or ‘supplementary’, questions from all parties and groups. 

The majority of parliamentary questions tabled are questions for written answer. This type of question enables members of the Lords to scrutinise specific areas of government policy in detail and to persist in their line of questioning beyond what is available to them through oral questions.

Members of the House of Lords may table up to six questions each day and can expect an answer within 14 days. All written questions are searchable online.

State Opening of Parliament

The House of Lords hosts the State Opening of Parliament each year. Steve Jaggs, Parliamentary Maintenance Manager coordinates preparations, overseen by Black Rod, Lieutenant-General David Leakey.

State Opening is the only regular occasion when peers wear robes, and the only time the three constituent parts of Parliament that have to give their assent to new laws – the monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet. The Queen’s Speech, delivered at State Opening, is the public statement of the government’s legislative programme for Parliament’s next working year. The speech is written by the government and read out in the House of Lords.

When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work.  Traditions surrounding State Opening and the delivery of a speech by the monarch can be traced back as far as the 16th century. The current ceremony dates from the opening of the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 after the fire of 1834.

House of Lords history and reform

The House of Lords, distinct from the House of Commons, dates back to the 14th century. Since then it has had an eventful history that has shaped it into an institution that provides a second opinion from the elected Commons.
Reform of the House of Lords is a topic of much debate. The Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House is examining methods to reduce the size of the Lords. The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House, and no member now inherits their seat.

The Palace of Westminster is one of the most iconic and significant buildings in the world. It is home to one of the busiest Parliaments, with more than a million people, including 100,000 schoolchildren, passing through its doors each year.

Home to both Houses of Parliament, the Palace is a Grade I listed building and part of the Unesco Westminster World Heritage Site. The oldest part of the building, Westminster Hall, dates to 1099 and is still in use today.

However, significant work is needed to the building in order to protect and preserve its heritage and ensure it can continue to serve as home to the UK Parliament in the 21st century. The Restoration and Renewal Programme has been established to tackle the work that is required to the Palace of Westminster.

A Joint Select Committee on the Palace of Westminster was appointed in July 2015 to consider an independent options appraisal and make recommendations on a preferred way forward for the restoration and renewal of the building. The Joint Committee published its recommendations on 8 September 2016.

Both Houses will now need to consider the main recommendations of the committee’s report and agree a preferred way forward. 

List of members featured in episode three

Name Party/group
Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat
Lord Blencathra Conservative
Baroness Boothroyd Crossbench
Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench
Lord Dobbs Conservative
Baroness D'Souza Crossbench
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour
Baroness Goldie Conservative
Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield Crossbench
Lord Kennedy of Southward Labour
Baroness King of Bow Labour
Baroness Stedman-Scott

Conservative

Lord Strathclyde Conservative
Lord Tyler Liberal Democrat
Lord West of Spithead Labour

Red Coat and doorkeepers

Red Coat is on duty at the Peers’ Entrance of the House of Lords. The red coat is worn in summer and in winter the uniform changes to a grey overcoat. Red Coat is one of the team of doorkeepers; the others wear black coated uniforms.

Doorkeepers are responsible for assisting in the smooth running of the House of Lords. They provide a service to peers, in particular by operating a messaging service.  Doorkeepers ensure the maintenance of good order and security at all times in and around the Lords chamber.

Black Rod

Black Rod is responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House and its precincts, as well as having an important ceremonial role.

Clerk of the Parliaments

The Clerk of the Parliaments is the most senior official in the House of Lords, responsible for its management, administration and finances. He also has responsibilities in the chamber during business.

Steve Jaggs, Palace Maintenance Manager

Steve Jaggs is Palace Maintenance Manager in Parliament’s Maintenance Services. He is also Keeper of the Great Clock in the Elizabeth Tower.

The Maintenance team serves the Commons and Lords on planned and urgent maintenance issues. They cover the full range of issues arising from members of two busy Houses of Parliament and staff working in a historic, Grade 1 listed building. The team is responsible for fire safety and emergency evacuation, as well as compliance with health and safety and environmental legislation.

Carrell Roberts and Maureen Shoults, Housekeepers in the House of Lords

Carrell Roberts and Maureen Shoults work for the Department of Facilities and are responsible for housekeeping and cleaning in the House of Lords, members’ and staff offices in the Palace of Westminster and other Lords buildings.

Gary Deveraux and Chefs in the House of Lords

Gary Deveraux and his team of chefs work for Catering and Retail Services, which provides catering facilities to members of the Lords as well as visitors to Parliament, staff, journalists and police officers.

Catering and facilities

House of Lords catering services meet the needs of a working House of Parliament. Due to the unpredictable nature of sittings of the House, and periods where the House doesn’t sit and so revenue is not generated, a subsidy is unavoidable. The House of Lords pays all staff at least the London Living Wage and provides workplace pensions to catering staff, and is proud to do so but it means costs are higher than some commercial restaurants. The House of Lords catering subsidy has been reduced by 27% since 2007 and we are working hard to reduce the subsidy even further.

There is a range of catering facilities in the House of Lords, from the Peers’ Dining Room featured in the documentary, to cafeterias like those provided for staff in most other organisations where people work outside normal office hours. The catering facilities in the House of Lords are used by a large number of people, not just members, such as visitors, staff, journalists and police officers.

Now you have met the Lords, do you see yourself working with them? The House of Lords offers rewarding careers across a range of posts, offices and skills levels. There are also office-based student placements available for those aged 15 to 18 years old.

Image: House of Lords 2017

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