What goes on in The House of Lords?

This summer I was lucky enough to spend the day shadowing a very active member of The House of Lords – Lord Balfe. The day I spent in Parliament was packed full of All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meetings, a Select Committee on International Relations about the problems facing the Middle East and a reception for members of The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA).

Lord Balfe - Political Biography


Lord Balfe is a conservative party politician and has been a Lord since 2013. His journey to his title began in the early 60s when he worked for the Foreign Office. In 1970, he stood as the Labour Party candidate for Paddington South, without success. It was not until the Greater London Council election in 1973 that he was elected to serve Dulwich which he did until 1977. In 1979 at the first direct elections to the European Parliament, Lord Balfe – a strong supporter of the single European currency and member of the European Movement - was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). In 2002, Lord Balfe was expelled from the Labour party for standing in an election for the post of quaestor in the European Parliament against his party’s instructions. This prompted him to move from the Labour Party to the Conservative Party in March 2002. After standing down as an MEP, Lord Balfe was appointed as the Conservative Party’s trade union envoy by David Cameron. He performed his role for five years before he was created a life peer.


My day at the Lords


I arrived at Milbank House at 9:30 and was greeted by Lord Balfe. He explained to me his background in politics, and what he was involved with as a Lord. In addition, he gave me a brief overview of the House of Lords and how things work – from readings and voting, to deciding who shares an office with who (more active Lords share with less active so as to not overcrowd some spaces and underuse others). We also went over the days schedule – I was shocked at how busy it was!

Walking round the House of Lords is a strange experience, armed police opened doors for Lord Balfe and myself and each one greeted him ‘good morning m’lord’. The never ending maze of carpeted corridors are lined with art and books took us into the upper chamber of the Palace of Westminster – The Lords Chamber. I sat in the East Gallery and listened to speeches on the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, what should be done about public sector pay and the enhancement of child welfare. From the upper chamber there was a dash across the Palace to the BALPA event, where I chatted with pilots, health and safety officers and airline executives on the future of air travel and the dangers faced by pilots in the form of recreational drone users and laser pens being shone in cockpits.

My day at The Lords was a massive eye opener. It was a varied day, and was so busy we barely had time to grab lunch in Portcullis House! There are many critics of the House of Lords, but my experience was a hardworking and important section of the government.