The BBC has been accused of trying to “sex up” its documentary about the House of Lords by generating controversy over the claim a peer left a taxi running outside parliament.
Lord Fowler, the Speaker of the House of Lords, today accused the broadcaster of misrepresenting the work peers do in its ‘Meet the Lords’ programme which airs tonight on BBC 2 at 9pm.
“It is utterly predictable that much of the BBC film Meet the Lords should dwell on the red robes, an extravagant country mansion and comments about ‘the best club in London’,” he said in a statement today.
“This may be good entertainment but the question is whether it is a true picture of the second chamber?
“To my mind it is not, for it ignores the sheer hard work that resulted last year in the government accepting over 1,200 amendments made to legislation in the Lords.
“It ignores the many peers working away from the chamber on a range of select committees scrutinising government policy.
“It ignores the fact that very few of us live in stately homes. And it ignores the everyday fact that most peers (including myself) arrive at Westminster not by chauffeur driven car but by London Underground.”
The programme has already generated headlines after an extract showed cross-bench peer Baroness D’Souza revealing she knew of one peer who had “ran in, presumably to show that he’d attended, and then ran out again while the taxi was still running”.
Members can claim between £150 and £300 for each sitting day they attend the House.
“There are, sad to say, many, many, many peers who contribute absolutely nothing but who claim the full allowance,” D’Sousa said.
Lord Fowler said he was not criticising the team that made the programme, but instead the BBC’s publicity team. “They have tried to sex up the programme to pretend that it is some kind of exposé which it is not,” he said.
And he said it had been wrong of the journalists behind the programme not to follow Baroness D’Souza’s claims. “What kind of investigative journalism leaves questions of that kind unanswered and apparently unasked?” he asked.
The peer added: “Perhaps those who watch tonight might reflect that you should not characterise the Lords by one alleged offender.”
Baroness D’Souza was also criticised this weekend by Shadow Leader of the Lords Baroness Smith who told The Huffington Post UK the taxi story “doesn’t stack up”.
“You haven’t been able to park a taxi outside the House of Lords entrance there since 2012. So I do worry about the accuracy of her inference from that,” she said.
“It’s also unfair. You see in the documentary peers working very hard on the housing bill, they’re challenging the Government, you’ve got Oona King trying to get amendments through to help families who adopt children.
“All this hard work is going on and then she says something like this and I think people are very disappointed in her. I don’t think it’s accurate and her criticisms are unfair. Any place of work you get some people work a lot harder than others, but I think those criticisms are unfair on the work we do.”
Lord Dobbs, the Tory peer who wrote the House of Cards books, has also said Baroness D’Souza was “wrong”.
“It was a ridiculous remark. And goodness knows why she said it. If I thought that was true, I would be resigning tomorrow because I don’t want to be smeared by association with a house like that,” he told The Sunday Times.
“That is not the house that I know. I am rather angry about it. It’s not only unhelpful, I actually happen to think the claim is untrue. If it is true, I want to see the evidence.”
The Huffington Post UK has contacted the BBC for a comment.