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19 October 2017

6 of the most ridiculous lords still running the country (or claiming expenses to do so)

Lord Tebbit once kicked a Chinese dragon in the backside. 

By Julia Rampen

In future, peers entering the House of Lords could be turfed out after 15 years, a report from the Lord Speaker’s committee recommends.

The report also suggested a “two out, one in” policy in a workplace with no compulsory retirement age – meaning peers can serve until they die.

Some critics of the House of Lords feel the peers may have missed the point. The Electoral Reform Society’s Darren Hughes complained: “The public are not just fed up with the Lords because it is too big – they are fed up with repeated expenses scandals, allegations of cronyism and the ludicrous continuation of hereditary peers.”

The news came as musicals mogul Andrew Lloyd Webber announced he was quitting as a Conservative peer because of his busy schedule (he famously flew in from New York to prop up the government on tax credit cuts).

If ludicrous peers are on their way out, though, here’s your guide to some of the most ridiculous ones before they’re gone:

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1. Lord Palmer

Adrian Bailie Nottage Palmer, 4th Baron Palmer, is descended from a family that made its wealth in biscuits. As a true tea-blooded biscuitocrat, he comes complete with a 110-room mansion for hire in Berwickshire, which includes the only silver-plated staircase in the world.

Running your hands up and down precious metal bannisters, though, comes with its costs. In 2000, Lord Palmer pleaded for silver polisher volunteers to buff up his stairs, in return for wine and sandwiches. Let no one mistake Lord Palmer for a nostalgic man, though – in 2015, he described tipping waiting staff as “outdated”.

In his work life, Lord Palmer pays equal attention to interior design, complaining to BBC documentary makers about the fact the Lords’ luxury TV room was turned into an office. (He also admitted he was expelled from every school he attended because “I was so incredibly stupid”). Nevertheless, he seems to be very popular these days, telling the House: “The happiest moments of my week are when I get a kiss from all the onboard staff on the East Coast line on Thursday lunchtime.” 

2. Lord Laird

John Laird, Baron Laird, is an advocate of Ulster Scots (a variant of Scots spoken in Northern Ireland), but is perhaps better known for his interest in financial affairs. In 2013, Laird was forced to resign the Ulster Unionist whip and temporarily barred from the red chamber after journalists posing as lobbyists recorded him giving advice on how to get questions asked in the House of Lords. Earlier that year, it emerged he had been a paid adviser to a registered sex offender.

Laird is since back in his Westminster office, fans will be glad to know, because he claimed nearly £50,000 in expenses in 2016-17, despite only voting twice (Laird blamed his ill health and said his “conscience is clear”. Retirement may not be compulsory, but it is also an option these days.

3. Lord Pearson

Malcolm Everard MacLaren Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch first put on the ermine robes as a Conservative, but defected to Ukip in 2007 and led the party into the 2010 election – although he only seemed to have a vague grasp of the Ukip manifesto.

As well as warning about “letting in Bulgarian and Romanian gangsters”, Lord Pearson has spent recent years championing herbal medicine as a way to save the NHS money and defending diamond miners in Botswana.

4. Lord Kirkhill

A former Labour minister, John Smith, aka Baron Kirkhill received £156,900 for attending the House of Lords despite only taking part in two debates (he said he didn’t speak because of the advanced age).

Contributions in recent years from Baron Kirkhill include a joke about how good-looking he is.

5. Viscount Falkland

A hereditary peer, it emerged in 2009 that Lucius Edward William Plantagenet Cary had claimed expenses for a two-bedroom house in Kent, when he in fact lived in Clapham, south London, and the other house belonged to his aunt. In his defence, Falkland said: “I’m an impoverished peer. My family over many hundreds of years have been noted for their poverty.’ 

6. Lord Tebbit

A Conservative minister, Norman Tebbit got his reward for serving under Margaret Thatcher when he ascended to the upper chamber. In 2010, he made headlines after kicking a Chinese dragon in the backside (to the distress of the child inside).

Since then, Tebbit has kept his kicks verbal. Here are some of the recent thoughts he’s shared with the House of Lords:

8 February 2017:

My Lords, would not any rational man or woman think that to describe a shortage of lettuces in the supermarket as a crisis shows a lack of understanding of the meaning of the words in the English language?

28 October 2015

Has it ever occurred to the noble Lord that old people never get younger but young people, granted reasonable luck, get older? The older they get, the more they become like old people.

26 November 2014

Can my noble friend also explain why the Government do so much to give incentives and help to women to leave their children at home and go out to work rather than to stay at home and look after their children?

3 June 2013

The rights of a homosexual man are identical to mine. Subject to the laws on incest and bigamy, we are each free to marry a woman.