Peer review? They work for you …

House of Lords - crowned portcullis imageOn average, local peers voted in the Lords less than a quarter of the time over the last two years, while claiming on average just over £100,000 in expenses over the last four years.

The most vocal third of local peers spoke an average 68 times over four years, while the quietest two-thirds only spoke an average of 11 times in four years.

This morning’s Irish News (no link – article on newsstand or behind paywall) leads with Diana Rusk’s report of the participation levels of Northern Ireland peers. They don’t clock in and out, so it’s impossible to say how often they are across in London sitting in the House of Lords. However, their voting record (in 2008/09 and 2009/10), spoken contributions to debates (2006-10), written questions (2006-10) along with expenses (2006-10) – which can be claimed for attendance since there’s no salary – are a matter of public record.

Voting, speaking and submitting questions are only some of the ways that peers contribute to the democratic process. So we shouldn’t lose sight of their influence outside the chamber in listening to people and lobbying departments, MPs and their colleagues.

However, their attendance is patchy. Some examples of the representation you’ve been getting …

  • Hotel-magnate Lord Rana voted only once in the last two years out of a possible 132 times, spoke 3 times and submitted 22 questions over the last four years while claimed £30,900 plus a computer.
  • Lord Ballyedmond (NI’s richest man and chair of Norbrook Laboratories) only voted 8 times over the last two years, with no record of him speaking in any debates or submitting any questions over the last four years. On the other hand, he hasn’t claimed any expenses.
  • Lord Brookeborough only voted 13 times in two years, spoke 16 times in four years while claiming back £126,500 in expenses plus a computer)
  • Lord Trimble voted 29 over the last two years out of a possible 132 times, contributed 85 times to debates and asked 5 written questions over the last four years while claimed £153,600 in expenses.
  • You’ve got to wonder what it cost to answer the 1306 written questions posed by Lord Laird over the last four years? He did vote 45 out of a possible 132 times over the last two years (putting him into joint second position along with Lord Bew), spoke 20 times in debates over the last four years while claiming a whopping £191,700 in expenses.
  • Baroness O’Loan only joined the Lords on 27 October 2009. But she seems to take her attendance seriously, voting 30 out of a possible 59 times.

When I get a minute I’ll have a plunder through the online records to see how this compares with Scottish peers.

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  • How on earth can somebody be bothered to contribute to a discussion but not vote? Even if you allow for multiple contributions, the numbers don’t quite add up do they?

    Trimble contributed 85 times while only voting 29 times.
    Brokeborough: 16/13
    Rana: 3/1

  • Drumlin Rock

    Simon I suspect alot of business never goes to a vote but simply goes through on a ” nod”.

  • Note the different time periods … 85 times between 2006-2010, while voted 29 over 2008-10.

  • Alan, it sometimes takes several attempts to get a simple answer to a simple question. John eventually managed to get a Government minister to admit that one of the Rathlin ferries had operated for a period of time without a valid passenger certificate. I should imagine the period would have been longer if I hadn’t published a query and a photo on NALIL blog. As it is, Government officials have steadfastly refused to release the related email correspondence from the ferry operator.

    DRD spent £55,000 and failed to get an answer to this and some other questions. The DRD Committee has yet to query the December 2008 report.

    It’s good to see that one parliamentarian is prepared to challenge government obfuscation. Sadly, too many MLAs facilitate Ministerial and Civil Service ‘blunders’ at the taxpayer’s considerable expense.