Brexit hits the Lords with a bang when they vote on leaving Europe and become the centre of the nation's attention, and the Queen pays her annual visit.
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..on your hair.
We hold the peers' robes and therefore we come along here
and make sure they're all dressed correctly before going into Chamber.
All done? Thank you.
There's a lot of history, a lot of pageantry.
It's just an amazing environment to come into. It's a real privilege.
Everyone's wanting to look their best.
In Westminster, Lords prepare for the biggest show of the year.
If the House of Lords could ever get buzzy, this is the buzzy day.
Waiting for the Queen to get back onto the carriage again
and drop off at the palace.
With unprecedented access, we filmed behind-the-scenes,
where senior Lords are calling for change...
The reputation of the Lords has gone down and down and down.
This is not a daycare centre or a club.
It is actually a legislative house.
Running out of buckets!
We're running out of buckets.
..and the Brexit vote that could determine their future.
This is much bigger than anything I've encountered
during my political lifetime.
They will open up a firestorm of resentment in the country.
-As many of that opinion will say content.
GREENWICH TIME SIGNAL PIPS
'It's seven o'clock on Wednesday the 18th of May. The news headlines -
'the Queen will set out the government's programme this morning
'in the traditional speech to Parliament.
'Far-reaching changes are proposed to the running of prisons in
'England and Wales...'
For many staff in the House of Lords,
it's the busiest day of the year.
Hopefully, there'll be no parking problems,
cos nobody should be coming in here to park.
I'm saying that now, we've got a police convoy coming in.
A bit hectic at the moment.
This is the point where everyone just starts to panic.
-MOBILE PHONE RINGS
-And phone calls start to come in.
-More fried eggs, please!
There's a massive queue.
-More hash browns, please.
Security is through the roof,
you've probably seen all the roads shut off outside.
And everybody comes in early,
because basically if you don't get in, you don't get in.
The palace shuts down.
-Here we are again.
-Hello, hello, hello.
Upstairs, the Lords library has been commandeered as a changing room.
-You'll have a lot waiting here soon, won't you?
-Yeah, there'll be a rush.
You need to put them on correctly, because obviously you want
them to go through and present themselves in the best way possible.
They're excited and they want the day to be a great success.
It's like a sort of prize-giving with knobs on!
Hello. Good morning to you.
An officer on the active list,
you have to wear your number one uniform -
a ceremonial day coat, which is all this stuff underneath here
with medals and goodness knows what.
So, lots of bling. More bling than my wife.
I think the public like to keep some traditions.
I think we have to watch them that we don't have too many
and they're not those which are so out of date that the young say,
"For goodness' sake," or something, probably...slightly less polite.
I am going to get out of my trainers, actually.
Just for the day.
It's my concession for Her Majesty, you know.
Millions across the country will watch the Queen
give her speech from the throne.
But beneath the glittering exterior, there is trouble.
All is not well in the House of Lords.
The reputation has gone down and down and down.
In fact, it probably has never been lower.
As Lord Speaker,
it's Baroness D'Souza's job to defend the reputation of the House.
The public perception is of, you know,
a House full of aged males, sitting around
perhaps sleeping on the benches.
And the public only gets to know of the work of the House of Lords
when the House of Lords really thwarts the government,
or because there's been a scandal.
My job, in part, is to promote and protect the reputation
of the House and that has been no easy task.
Her five years in the job has seen a drug and prostitution scandal
and a peer prosecuted for expenses fraud.
But on Queen's Speech Day, the ceremonial Head of the Lords,
she must play her part.
-Here comes the heavy bit.
If we try to present ourselves as a modern and up-to-date House,
the fact that we are in robes is something that confuses the public.
Those are the pictures which all the journalists want to take
and, quite frankly, I think that we would make
a big step forward if we abolished the robes.
Very nice to see you.
-Yes, you too. Thank you.
-Thanks very much.
Scandals may excite the newspapers,
but a more fundamental problem lies behind the headlines.
We have just had nearly 50
new peers introduced to the House in a very short period.
Things are getting tight for seats in the Chamber.
So the House now is, it's getting to near bursting point.
The more Lords a Prime Minister appoints,
the more control they can have.
There are now over 800 members.
The government have been very lethargic about the size of
the House and reducing it.
It's far too large and we've said, we've had many debates,
we've had lots of Parliamentary questions about it,
and they've simply sat on their hands.
When the Queen comes to Parliament, it's a scrum.
If you tried to organise chaos,
you couldn't do it any better than what will actually happen.
I was in Prince's Chamber and a peer came up to me with his wife,
who had a lovely gown on, a lovely tiara and said,
"Mr Phipps, you'll find my wife a seat, won't you?"
And just walked away and left Her Ladyship with me.
We managed to find her a seat, you know.
So things like that happen, yep.
But it's fantastic. It's tradition.
And, er, long may it continue.
I find the Queen's Speech a complete distraction and
a complete irrelevance.
One person won't be getting dressed up for Her Majesty -
Labour peer Lord Foulkes.
It's a waste of time, a waste of money.
I take people round and they say, "What a wonderful place."
And I say, "It's not a good place to work in." It's a royal palace.
It's not a real parliament
and the worst time of all is when we get to the Queen's Speech.
Everything takes over for the State Opening.
We have canopies outside, the lampposts get taken away,
the crossing that I came across disappears,
so that the Queen's carriage can arrive
and everything is under control of the, of Black Rod and his men.
Got to clean these shoes up.
The Queen would notice immediately if they were grubby.
Just a bit of ordinary household polish
and it works marvellously on these shoes, brings them up.
Not all men are keen on wearing diamante buckles on their slippers.
I've spoken to some chaps who, who think it's a bit feminine.
But it's just a uniform, so you don't notice.
There we are.
It's not the normal uniform day, no.
It's one of those days where it's full uniform,
so medals and decorations, if you've got any.
And the Black Rod chain of office, which is there.
A ceremonial sword today, so one up from the ordinary sword.
And, obviously, you have to carry the Black Rod.
If I turn up at the House of Commons without the Black Rod,
I don't go with the sovereign's authority and they'll send me away.
It's happened before.
1624, I think it was.
In a couple of hours, the Queen will be here.
Right, we need to get on.
Black Rod and his sidekick, the Yeoman Usher,
make a last-minute tour of the building.
The key thing about this walk round this morning,
of course it's looking to make sure that everything's in order,
but it's more to thank people for the efforts that they've made.
Are you responsible for this?
I'm not responsible for the gantry.
-I can get in touch with somebody.
-And say they can't have it there.
-It's in the way of the troops.
It's got to be on the pavement,
on the corner of the pavement.
And if so, we need to move the barriers back,
-but it's got to be, it's got to be on the pavement.
He's known as "His Darkness"
-and the Yeoman Usher is known as the "Semi Darkness".
-Does he know that?
Probably not, but he probably will do now.
The historic palace may draw all the crowds,
but for Lord Blencathra, who works here most days
and suffers from multiple sclerosis, it is an obstacle course.
This is a marvellous building. I am absolutely devoted to it.
But it was built in 1854 and we didn't have to worry
about people in wheelchairs then.
Scares me we're at the top of these stairs.
Now then, how about this lift?
So... There we go. Half in.
Just making the point there's no way through for us harmless cripples.
If I eat in the cafeteria here,
I can't get out onto the terrace that way.
It says "No entry," but I'll ignore that.
If you see a good party, you gate-crash it.
Not that I ever do that.
That little ramp is just too steep, that's a deathtrap for me.
There we go. It's easier to open from the other side.
There we go.
I have to do that every time.
And then get the policeman to shut it.
A traditionalist at heart, Lord Blencathra doesn't want to
abandon the palace, he wants to change it.
These days, I suppose, if we were to build a new Parliament,
it would be as ghastly and plain as the one in Brussels
and we wouldn't dare show any of our great historical past.
I may be complaining about it, but there's not much you can do
unless you do some major work.
Right, it's done.
Lord Blencathra is in with a chance of seeing the changes he wants.
An enquiry is being held
about how to renovate and modernise the palace.
It could be the most significant overhaul the building
has seen in its long history,
ripping its very guts out.
Engineer Andy Piper works on its hidden bowels.
I'm just using this device to make sure there's no gases or
anything leaking out of the ejectors, just as a safety measure.
It's a reasonably confined space down there.
It's for the lowest parts of the palace.
At the bottom of these stairs is where the palace
is really showing its age.
These Victorian sewage ejectors could create a very messy problem.
If these pack up, fundamentally, we've got a big problem
about trying to keep the palace running.
These are approaching 130 years old now.
They were originally installed to deal with a major problem
of London sewage coming back into the palace.
These take all the waste from the palace -
rainwater, foul water, toilets...
everything comes down here.
That was it just discharging, actually.
When the clunk sounds,
waste is fired through this pipe and into the sewers
on the other side of the wall.
The amount of people that come through the palace,
it was never envisaged when these were first put in.
They're really not going to cope much longer.
The number of members that we have here,
members use the building differently,
they're here for a lot longer times,
a lot longer periods, and all that means a lot more waste.
The sewage ejectors and many parts of the palace
are on their last legs.
To fix all the many problems, the enquiry is considering
whether Lords and MPs should move out
for the five or so years the work will take.
Some of the biggest problems we face
is that you can't actually access lots of the pipe work,
because it runs between the gaps between floors, walls
and ceilings around the entire palace.
These are areas that are really hard to get into.
It's really problematic for us to get in there
and do any major replacement works while the House is sitting.
Baroness D'Souza wants a radical overhaul of her own.
She's worried about numbers,
particularly those peers who turn up to claim their £300
daily expenses without contributing.
For the past few months she's been carrying out her own research.
What I wanted to find out in the research that I did
a few months ago was who was attending, um,
and what they were claiming
and, you know, it is very difficult to quantify.
There are some who make no contribution whatsoever and
who nevertheless claim the full amount.
This is not a day care centre or a club,
it is actually a house,
a legislative house
and I do firmly believe that the people who
attend ought to be in a position to be able to contribute.
But she's found herself in a difficult position.
As ambassador for the House, she's reluctant to speak out.
I abandoned this research because it would have involved
a degree of naming and shaming, which I certainly didn't want to do,
but also that would in turn have provoked some kind of
a press storm, which clearly I didn't wish to do.
I mean, the reputation of the House is not that great anyhow.
On Queen's Speech Day, it's just an hour before she arrives.
The Queen's bodyguard will turn to the left
The Yeoman of the Guard are about to check the palace cellars
It's a tradition that dates back to 1605, when Guy Fawkes tried to
blow up the House of Lords.
They have made their report to Black Rod that the basements
and now clear for Her Majesty to attend.
Um, then it is on with part two of the State Opening of Parliament.
BAND PLAYS THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
It's just an ordinary day
unfortunately interrupted by this procession
and panoply and ceremony,
which makes it a little bit more difficult,
but it doesn't stop us getting on with the normal business.
A proud Scot, Lord Foulkes is upset
that the Lords doesn't fairly represent the country as a whole.
I'm tabling a question about the imbalance of membership of the
House of Lords with nearly half of them coming from London.
So I've got a question to ask Her Majesty's Government
what plans they have to make the composition of the House of Lords
more representative of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom?
Once we've finished here, I'm going to go upstairs
and use a bit of the library that isn't being used as
a changing room today
and catch up with my e-mail.
But he will have to bide his time.
The Queen has now entered the building
and the whole palace is in lockdown.
FANFARE FROM STATE TRUMPETERS
Some people come out of the woodwork wearing these great outfits,
looking like playing cards, carrying swords.
I feel sorry for the Queen
with that crown which must be heavy on her head.
My Lords, pray be seated.
That one day a year, where we put on the red robes,
we are part of that 800-year tradition
and it gives us that perspective back in history.
We're here in the Central Lobby.
Make way for Black Rod.
Some people don't like the robe.
I think that's pathetic and silly.
Lock the doors!
The most important bit of the ceremony,
the bit that would take 10,000 words to write
is Black Rod hammering on the door of the Commons.
Black Rod, open the door!
The symbolism of him tapping on the door
and them slamming it in his face
is what our Constitution is all about.
The supremacy of the Commons,
not having to obey the sovereign, or the Lords.
But at the end of the day, out of courtesy,
coming along to hear what is said.
Black Rod, open the doors.
The Queen commands this Honourable House...
..to attend Her Majesty immediately in the House of Peers.
MPs are summoned to the Lords to hear the Government's plans
for the coming year.
A standout moment will be the promised Brexit referendum.
My Lords and members of the House of Commons,
my government will hold a referendum
on membership of the European Union.
Proposals will be brought forward for a British bill of rights.
My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and
the primacy of the House of Commons.
We'll wait for the Queen to get back onto the carriage again
and drop-off at the palace.
This is the best job, we get tea and biscuits.
He's quite young.
And she's very old, so she's looking after him.
She's very, very good, she is.
We just keep him occupied with lots of mints.
I haven't been anywhere else,
I've stayed here and watched the whole thing.
It's very impressive to watch the coaches
and the horses and the people.
The Queen's coming out in a moment.
They think she's coming out now.
She was in very good spirits, she was chuckling, I would say.
I'm going to go and have some refreshments.
And then lunch.
I'm going to go and take my thing off.
-Just come with me.
-Just step out of that.
If you can undo that, that'll be great.
Thank you very much, nice to meet you.
There we are, thank you very much. Thank you.
Back to normal. The pantomime is over.
It's almost the end, isn't it?
You've got a huge pile there.
There is, yes. We'll work our way through.
The leader of the House has a little gathering.
A little gathering, a big gathering, a bit squashed,
but then there's lunch downstairs, which I hope
you've been invited to, as well.
-That's bad luck.
The House of Lords catering people,
they let their imagination run wild.
A lot of the Lords haven't even been down to the kitchen.
When I ask someone now, when I asked them,
"Do you feel like coming down to the kitchen?"
They say, "Oh, really? Oh, yes."
They come down and they're amazed.
It's like the engine room.
Once the ceremony is over,
peers get the chance to table questions to the Government.
Lord Foulkes wants to be first in the queue,
but the Queen's Speech has got in the way again.
-I imagine this has been used as a cloakroom.
When do you start the queuing?
It's not open for another hour.
About 1.30, is it?
I want to be early in the queue later today to make sure I get
my question in early, but I'd better let all these robes get out first.
There's so many people working, moving everything around.
This place is totally chaotic, isn't it?
Spin it. Spin it.
It's a fantastic team.
It's amazing how quickly they can turn this around from
a state occasion, which is what it is,
to setting the chamber back up ready for a chamber sitting.
Breathe in, guys.
Calm down. Slowly.
Don't hold the top.
It'll all be done in an hour and a half, a couple of hours.
We're doing it as quick as possible,
which is why everyone's sweating when everyone runs about in here.
There are nine men easily,
six, eight, seven, nine men needs to lift them.
They're very, very heavy, solid oak.
He wouldn't know because he hasn't been lifting.
-He's standing and looking.
-I have been lifting.
The Queen has barely left the building and already a queue
has formed of peers who want to ask a question of the Government.
We can challenge the executive sometimes in a way that
maybe the members of Parliament can't.
Five, six, seven.
Peers can interrogate ministers on any aspect of policy,
provided they get a slot.
There's 36 oral question slots today, which is a huge number.
Compared to a normal day, there would be three or four.
There's only 36 chairs out. If you get a chair, you've got a question.
I've come early, which I thought was early,
but I realised I've got two rows in front of me,
so I'm not that early.
Thank you for your patience in waiting.
It is 2.30.
Lord Spicer, when would you like to ask your question?
-We've had a good time there.
What's the first available date?
23rd of May.
Fourth question on the Monday, the 23rd, next week.
-Just in case my plane's late.
That's first on the 24th.
-First on the 24th, thanks very much.
I'm the first one on the 24th of May,
so I'll be able to pursue my campaign on the question of
the balance of membership of this place, to try and get it a bit
more representative of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.
See you later.
My Lords, ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the Lord Speaker.
The new session is now under way.
There's only a month to go until the Brexit referendum
and it will dominate business in the Lords.
Everyone wants a say, but with room for only around 400 in the
chamber, it's hard to get a word in.
We're in a crush, quite frankly,
and there aren't enough seats for everybody.
I often find myself standing
or sitting in the visitors' gallery.
It is totally overcrowded.
There are too many lords now.
I think the accommodation is rather squeaking at the seams
because there's so many.
I suggested we get one of the old aircraft carriers,
which sadly they scrapped in 2010
in a rather mistaken way,
dragged it up the River Thames, berthed it before we could put all the extra peers
in the empty aircraft carrier.
That didn't actually meet with too many wishes from people and
you'd have great difficulty getting under the bridges,
but I did it slightly tongue-in-cheek.
The Speaker's job is normally to defend the reputation of the
House, but after five years in office,
Baroness D'Souza is soon to step down and won't be so restrained.
The House is now so big, over 800 members.
If there is a subject of extreme importance and interest,
you can't fit everyone in and, unless you've got a seat in the House of Lords,
you can't speak.
If you can't speak, you can't hold the Government to account.
It's early June and she's come to Brighton to address an
audience with a tough reputation.
Is the annual conference of the Women's Institute.
Would you welcome Baroness D'Souza of Wychwood in the County of Oxfordshire.
The size of the House,
I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you that
we currently have well over 800 members.
The only larger chamber in the world is the Chinese National Congress.
Which is not really a parliamentary body at all.
A careful analysis of attendance,
voting and contributions to debates,
oral questions and committees
indicates that the Lords could very comfortably carry out its
work with no loss of expertise with between 450 to 500 members.
Reform of the House of Lords is far from most people's minds.
Britain is about to go to the polls for the biggest vote
in a generation.
Almost everything is on hold because of this decision.
The questions about the future of the House of Lords also pale
A very good adviser said to me, "If Brexit happens, forget it.
"There won't be any way in which you can bring in reform of the Lords,
"because it's just not relevant."
BBC RADIO PIPS
'The UK has voted to take the momentous step
'to leave the European Union
'in a move that's shocked the rest of Europe.
'Leave campaigners say it's a stunning rebuff
'to the political elite that run the EU.'
It's a victory for ordinary people, decent people.
There is still a massive disconnect between Westminster,
SW1 and real communities.
We really are
in a most impossible situation.
No-one knows where we're going.
The Government hadn't expected it, so they've got no idea.
The Leave campaigners didn't think they were going to win,
so they've got no idea.
We really are in limbo.
Normal business has been suspended for an urgent debate.
Clearly, this is a mega, mega issue.
We've got 119 people
in to speak which, in my time here, is a record.
We started at 11.30 this morning, three hours earlier.
We'll go on until 11 tonight and we'll do tomorrow afternoon
and on to ten o'clock tomorrow night to try and get everybody in.
I hope that the House of Lords will send a warning shot to the
Government of the dangers of Brexit, to try and get them to think
again and to say, "We accept the advisory referendum, we accept
"their advice, but on balance, we think it's the wrong way forward."
My Lords, this long overdue and momentous decision, in my opinion,
will be good for the United Kingdom and good for democracy in Europe.
The losing remainers must stop their bitter recriminations
and accept the decision of the people.
The referendum was a blunt instrument
which showed a dominant mood.
It is obvious that the Government was unprepared for defeat.
That's no excuse, my Lords, for legislation based on the first,
second and third reading of the Daily Mail.
Most members were against Brexit,
but for now, the Lords is just a talking shop.
They will have to wait and see whether they get to vote on the
biggest of all issues facing Britain.
First they will have to consider another exit...
Abnormal rainfall last night hit the Palace of Westminster and we
have been incredibly busy doing a massive operation mopping up.
-We're running out of buckets.
-We're running out of buckets.
The need for repairs is becoming increasingly urgent.
Almost every area in the Parliamentary estate
has had some type of water damage today.
You can see where it's coming from.
Yeah, yeah, it's dripping down across the beam.
This carpet underneath me is completely sodden.
But if we can just go up into the roof,
because I'd like to see how it's backing up to get this bad.
-Are you confident of getting me to the roof above here
without getting me lost?
-Not confident but I'll have a good go.
-Well, shall we try?
It's like being a bit of a detective.
We need to understand why the water's coming into the building.
Some of this building has been here for near enough 800 years.
What I'm actually looking at now is what they call a box gutter,
this is part of the original fabric of the building.
This has been cleaned today and the water is actually running,
so hopefully it will be better now than it was this morning.
This building is a sprawling palace,
intertwined with downpipes and soil pipes and plumbing work.
We don't always know where it all goes.
Even though you do surveys,
pipes just disappear into walls and you can't find where they're going.
But this is all part and parcel of working in a historic palace.
The report on renovating the palace will soon be published.
Rumour is it will recommend moving out completely
while repairs are undertaken.
Lord Blencathra has already started thinking of where to go.
People say, and colleagues ask me, "OK,
"if we were to move out of Parliament, where would we go?"
It is my submission that
within a couple of hundred yards of Parliament,
we've got ample alternative space.
Look at this beautifully quiet area here,
250 yards away from the Houses of Parliament.
Clearly this space can't be desecrated permanently,
but we've got a huge area here where it would be possible,
for the four or five years without a Parliament, to build,
what, three, four-storey Portakabins here with huge open-plan offices
to hold staff and secretaries, and MPs and Lords if necessary.
Portakabin city. OK, a posh Portakabin city.
I know many of my colleagues in the Lords are, like,
"Oh, Portakabins - horrible, vulgar things, we can't sit in those."
But there's some very sophisticated
Portakabin-type office blocks these days.
Ample alternative facilities for five or six years.
The cost of renovating the palace will be enormous.
Initial estimates are over £3 billion.
Parliament will be under pressure to justify the cost in the press.
For now, Baroness D'Souza is getting some flak of her own
for a smaller expense.
Good afternoon. This is the moment of truth.
And I think it's a good painting. I think it's a really good painting.
I'm terribly honoured, I'm flattered.
A portrait costing £12,000 has been called
a waste of public money by some newspapers.
Previous attacks have come over the cost of flowers in her room
and once leaving a car waiting
whilst making an official visit to the opera.
They do what is appropriate.
They hold people to account, those people who spend taxpayers' money,
there's absolutely no qualm in that at all.
In fact, that's their job, I absolutely support that.
Just one would require them to be accurate.
The fact that one has, as we have in this office,
halved expenditure over the five years that I've been here,
more than halved it, is really not news, is not news at all.
My son-in-law gave that to me. He said it's one of the last ones
he found in an old Communist bookshop.
He gave it to me.
-'The former Conservative peer Lord Hanningfield
'has been cleared of false accounting.
'Describing him as Lord Fraud, the paper explained how
'he claimed the maximum £300 attendance allowance for the Lords
'on 11 days when he spent less than 40 minutes in Parliament.'
Baroness D'Souza has another scandal to deal with.
Lord Hanningfield is a serial offender.
Jailed for expenses fraud,
he returned to the Lords on release
only to be suspended for claiming his daily allowance without working.
Now the criminal case has been dismissed after the court said
only the Lords can define what constitutes Parliamentary work.
Some newspapers are calling it a cover-up.
-How are you?
-Good, thank you.
What news, other than Hanningfield?
Well, I just saw the front pages this morning. Doesn't look good.
And it gets off scot-free?
"Lord Fraud Above The Law." That's what it says.
When you said yesterday that the press office had got
some press lines ready, are they putting them out?
Yes, I'm sure they are. I'll check, though.
I'll let you know what they are as well.
OK, thanks very much, Rob, that's great.
It's a very, very sad case of someone who behaved
very, very stupidly.
He was someone who was not savvy enough to realise that
he would become a point of interest for the press.
And he clearly, having already been convicted and imprisoned for fraud,
and came back to the House,
and then started claiming a full whack for not a very full day...
it brings the House into disrepute.
The Hanningfield scandal will be the last that Baroness D'Souza
has to deal with before she leaves office.
We've had some very, very good times,
quite a lot of difficult times.
I don't think that you could do without the House of Lords.
It does refine legislation.
It's got a particularly strong reputation
for upholding individual liberties.
It holds the government to account.
I feel quite sad about stepping down.
It's now the summer recess.
But controversy hasn't taken a holiday.
-'David Cameron's been accused of
'looking after his old boys network
'after the Sunday Times published what it says is his
'resignation honours list.
'It includes two major Conservative party donors
'who were also Remain supporters,
'four Cabinet ministers and more than 20 staff at Downing Street.'
On leaving office,
David Cameron has nominated 13 Conservatives for peerages.
Of course, prime ministers have every right to appoint people
when they leave office, when they're in office,
if they want to put more peers in there, but, you know,
I really do have to tell you,
it really has been far too many in recent times.
Tony Blair, in ten years, appointed 374 new peers.
Cameron was in office for six years,
he created 244 new peers at a faster rate than any other Prime Minister.
I think, quite frankly, it's a disgrace.
Lord Blencathra has a plan for where the knife should trim.
There are some people who had tremendous expertise
or maybe held high positions in government.
But if they're never here now, then what is the point of staying on?
I'm thinking about a Deputy Prime Minister
in the Conservative government under John Major. Let's find him.
Ah, there he is.
Michael, Lord Heseltine.
3% attendance in the whole of the last Parliament.
3%. You know?
And maybe he came in and made some devastatingly important speech then,
I don't recall it.
it's, it's... I don't think we can go on with people
on 3%, 4%, 5%, or 0% attendance, when there is no good reason not to.
There are only so many sardines that can fit into a tin.
And only so many peers that can squeeze into a room.
Where did you disappear to? Oh, you did that?
Maureen and Carol have the unenviable task
of looking after Lords' private offices.
This room has got, like, three rooms in it.
One, two, three. You've got a baroness in here.
The easiest room? One of the cubicles.
There's one desk, one chair.
Bits and pieces.
It's like 3' x 3', so I just go in, round, and out again.
In these cramped rooms, no gap is too small for a desk,
some papers and a peer of the realm.
Can't do much on that table. There's so much stuff on there.
Got so many papers.
Of course, we're not allowed to touch it.
We just hold the stuff... and then just flick over.
Irvine, sorry. Lord Irvine.
And the courts have ruled that Parliament,
including the Lords, must vote on Britain leaving the EU.
-What do we want?
-When do we want it?
This is potentially a massive blow to Theresa May's Brexit plan,
that Parliament could have to pass legislation to trigger Article 50.
It wouldn't just have to go through the Commons,
it would have to go through the House of Lords too,
where the government does not have a majority,
and where there are an overwhelming number of peers opposed to Brexit.
Pro-European Lords now face a historic dilemma.
Bow to the will of the people,
or vote with their hearts against Brexit.
This is the most important decision that has been made by Parliament
in the 40 years that I've been in the Commons and in the Lords.
What we've already got MPs saying, and the government in particular is,
"We've been given instructions by the British people."
That is a load of nonsense. Absolute rubbish.
Whispers around Westminster are that the Lords could even be abolished
if they defy the government.
It is undermining our whole system for the Prime Minister
and the government to threaten the House of Lords
that if we don't do what they expect us to do,
then our future will be in jeopardy.
That is disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful.
The Lords would be very, very foolish to vote it down,
because they don't understand the mood of the people out there.
If the elected members of parliament try and muck around with
the will of the people, then I think they'll be in deep trouble.
And if the Lords were attempting to do it, then,
I think that would be, that would lead to trouble on the streets.
That would lead to complete anarchy and riots.
Never mind the House of Lords being abolished,
that will be the least of our worries.
For now, peers have the chance to debate an issue
that's united the House.
Their own bloated size.
The House wants it, the country wants it, the nation deserves it.
We deserve reform.
So all we can do is go on pressurising the government
to see the error of their ways. Get something done about it.
After years of talk about reducing numbers,
peers have finally secured a debate they hope will spark real change.
The repeated abuse of prime ministers' powers of privilege
is as plain as a pikestaff.
The abolition of their unchannelled power is long overdue.
Be gone, I say.
And I hope Theresa May takes note.
MUMBLES OF AGREEMENT
The question is
that this House believes that its size should be reduced
and methods should be explored by which this could be achieved.
As many are of that opinion will say, "Content."
To the contrary, "Not content."
The contents have it.
The House do now adjourn.
For the first time,
all sides of the House agree that numbers should be cut.
The only way to do it is a proper Select Committee
to see how it can be done,
and to stop prime ministers, and all prime ministers,
not just one prime minister, all prime ministers,
putting people into this House that give them either financial support
or support in some other way.
A committee will now look at where the axe should fall.
But any plan will need not only cross-party support,
but the Government's support as well.
Is any government really going to give time to changes of this sort
when they've got the whole Brexit concerns to face up to?
If it becomes evident that the Prime Minister and the Government
have less patronage, less power, less influence here,
just when they need it most? No way.
That's not real politics.
The committee on renovating the palace has published its report.
'The report anticipates that sooner rather than later,
'we've got to completely refurbish every aspect of the building
'and that means we should plan to move out
'and then we can actually do a proper job.'
The suggested new home for the Lords is the QE2 conference centre,
just across Parliament Square.
This is a horrible, ghastly, 1970s architectural monstrosity
in my opinion, but nevertheless, it is perfect for our purposes.
I know we've got a few colleagues who suggest
close the whole thing down and build a new one in Birmingham or whatever.
No, the concern some will have is that once we leave,
we may never go back in.
Some wicked government in the future will say,
"Ah, well, that's the Lords out of the place now, let's close it down."
I don't think that will happen.
I can understand how some people say,
dangerous moving out, because
you never know what quite will happen then.
There are things like the dress of the doorkeepers.
You know, the Black Rod may no longer be called Black Rod,
for example. Is he really going to walk around
with a sword on his hip for various events?
I think a lot of these things could be removed.
People say, "No, we don't really want to do that."
Once you've had a break, that's the time to do it.
-We probably all have to move out.
It will be very traumatic for me personally when that happens.
I love being here.
I look at the paintings, the glorious ceilings we have.
Or the library.
What is going to happen to all of this? I ask myself that question.
How are we going to preserve this so that one day we can come back
and make this a real parliament, you know, again?
The Lords have had to move out of their chamber before.
And still survived.
Oh! We've got something here which shows you
the officials of Parliament managed to keep traditions going,
doesn't matter what happens.
After the Second World War, the House of Commons was destroyed,
the Commons moved into the chamber of the House of Lords
and the Lords moved through there into the Robing Room.
So what happened, at the Queen's speech,
when the Commons were in here,
Black Rod came down through the Royal Gallery,
came here and knocked with his rod on THIS door.
So this door has got exactly the same kind of marks
that the door of the House of Commons has.
There are going to be very serious questions
when we move out to other buildings.
It will be very, very difficult for them to keep some of the traditions
and keep some of the ceremonial going.
But don't underestimate their ability to find ways of doing it.
And I'm sure that Black Rod,
even now, will be thinking,
is there a door Black Rod can knock on?
It's definitely a landmark occasion,
it's something that we'll probably never, ever see again.
We're going to get a lot of Lords in the chamber today and it's going to be busy.
There's been a lot of talk saying, if they do vote against anything,
then they're going to get rid of the House of Lords.
I don't want that to happen, I'd be out of a job.
The Government's Brexit bill has been passed in the Commons
by a large majority.
It is now down to the Lords to agree it.
'I came to London last night to prepare for it today
'because it is such a big day.
'I've been listening to the radio and TV last night and this morning,
'and they're all talking about the House of Lords.'
Hi, how are you?
-I'm very well, thank you, how are you?
That's brilliant, nice and strong.
I've been getting e-mails the like of which I can't recall,
asking us to do something about stopping Brexit.
If the House of Commons is going to just meekly accept
this flawed referendum result and take it as an instruction,
why are they there at all?
All that we have now to protect our constitution
and protect our democracy is the House of Lords.
'People made the decision.
'It's simply our job to enact it without mucking around with it.'
It is a very, very short bill.
It has come from the Commons unamended with a massive majority.
I want to say to peers,
if they want to actually try and vote against this bill,
they will open up a firestorm of resentment in the country.
Record numbers of peers want to speak in the two-day debate.
What we've got here, we have the speakers list.
They're not normally this long.
And we have got 84 speakers today and more coming tomorrow.
We'll start at 11 o'clock, with Lord Lamont,
and then we'll go until the end,
which is 187 speakers.
This is much bigger than anything I've encountered
during my political lifetime.
That would apply to everybody else in this chamber today.
I mean, this is big league time.
It's standing room only in the chamber.
But a surprise visitor has squeezed in.
When any Privy Counsellor comes, they have to sign in the book here.
February 2017, we've got the Prime Minister there.
You wouldn't really know it was the Prime Minister,
so she's conveniently written "Prime Minister" alongside for us.
Theresa May is taking up her right to sit in front of the throne,
the first Prime Minister to do so in a quarter of a century.
I don't think anyone comes in here to intimidate the House of Lords
because the House of Lords is a fairly unintimidate-able
body of people.
I know that a lot of media said, "Oh, she was showing, 'Look,
"'I'm keeping an eye on you lot, don't you dare do anything.'"
I think actually it was, in a funny way,
good leadership, good naval leadership.
The two-day debate will decide
whether the bill goes to the next stage in the Lords.
If we ask the House of Commons to look again at an issue,
it is not a constitutional outrage, but a constitutional responsibility.
If this House tries to sabotage the bill,
we will be called the real enemy of the people.
We will have unleashed demons which will not be controlled.
To listen to the arguments and to decide how to vote.
That's Parliamentary democracy for you.
And if we don't stick to that,
it's not just the House of Lords that will be redundant,
it's the House of Commons as well.
MUMBLES OF AGREEMENT
The question is that this bill be now read a second time.
As many of that opinion will say, "Content."
To the contrary, "Not content." The contents have it.
The House has passed the bill through its first stage.
They will now vote on amendments.
185, 190 speeches.
That's not what people outside have been asking for, writing to us,
sending us e-mails, ringing us up.
They're asking for decisions.
Over the coming days, the Lords make changes to the detail of the bill.
Temporary defeat for the Government.
There have voted contents, 358.
Not contents, 256.
So the contents have it.
But they will not have the final say.
Peers have no intention of stopping the bill in its tracks,
and will ultimately bow to the Commons,
whether they accept their amendments or not.
The decision now has been made.
I voted remain but the decision has been made to go.
The House of Lords can't and doesn't want to overturn
the will of the people or the will of the Commons.
Leaving Europe will hand Parliament a massive workload,
passing new legislation to replace EU law that is lost.
The Lords will come into their own.
Burrowing into the heap of legislation
flowing from the Commons,
making amendments and refining it.
I've referred to us as being Parliamentary worms,
and we will be wriggling furiously over the next couple of years.
We can't overstep the mark, because if we do, worms get squashed.
But we will have a huge role to play over the next couple of years
and it's very difficult to think of a time when the House of Lords
is going to be more significant in that legislative process.
We'll be getting into the nitty-gritty.
And as everybody knows, and I know as an ex-MP,
the MPs are not very good at dealing with that.
Both Houses will have to work very carefully together
to hold the government to account,
to make sure that ridiculous things don't slip through.
Brexit will make the Parliamentary worms more important than ever.
Secure in their immediate future.
It is the Palace of Westminster itself
which is facing the most dramatic change,
with radical building work and the loss of its inhabitants.
One day I was coming to work and I stopped on Westminster Bridge
and I looked at it and thought, "Bloody hell, that's where I work."
If we move out,
I personally wouldn't really want to go and work anywhere else.
If we move out here, we stay dressed like this,
you haven't got the same nostalgia, the same history.
Wherever we go work after this,
the Queen Elizabeth building, anything, it won't be the same.
It just won't be the same.
Are you interested in finding out more about the House of Lords,
and the role it plays in the UK's political system? Go to...
..and follow the links to the Open University.
Brexit hits the Lords with a bang when they vote on leaving Europe and become the centre of the nation's attention. They also have their biggest ceremonial day of the year when the Queen pays her annual visit. Lords turn out in massive numbers to have their say on the most important issue in decades and decide whether to rebel on Brexit or not. And on Queen's Speech day, there are ermine gowns to put on and ancient traditions to follow, but Her Majesty's impending arrival isn't exciting Lord Foulkes, who feels it is an irritating distraction.
The House's Victorian sewage system is on its last legs and not equipped to deal with so many Lords. To fix the many structural problems an inquiry is considering a dramatic move for the five or so years the work will take. Some Lords have radical overhaul plans of their own and want the size of the House cut. And Baroness D'Souza is worrying about peers who claim their expenses without contributing and has some new research. Over the course of a year, Meet the Lords, the exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary, follows some of the larger than life characters that inhabit the House of Lords, one of Britain's oldest, most idiosyncratic and important institutions
For the first time, free-roaming cameras have been allowed to film inside the Lords Chamber and in its committees to capture moments that matter to the UK, but usually go unseen.
Featuring new people's peers, hereditaries and political grandees as they try to change or influence legislation, it follows their personal passions and clashes with the government, all in a gothic palace where centuries-old ceremony and tradition still dominate proceedings.