Production company Top Hat were given exclusive access to the members and precincts of the House of Lords, to allow for a unique look at the work, role and membership of Parliament’s second chamber.
The filming covered an eventful 12 months which saw the nation split over Brexit in June 2016 and brings the action right up to date with the Lords themselves debating the momentous decision.
The series also raises the question of Lords reform and whether the powers of the Lords will be curbed in the future.
Meanwhile, it is not just the peers who are scrutinised and potentially in need of modernisation. The grandiose Palace of Westminster is shown in desperate need of repair. The episodes follow the day to day decisions on how to repair and refurbish one of Britain’s most iconic buildings.
Dr Richard Heffernan, Head of Politics and International Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the OU was the academic consultant to the programme.
He worked closely with the programme makers throughout the series production, advising on research topics, commenting on draft scrips and providing feedback and fact-checking from an academic perspective.
Meet the Lords wonderfully records the work of the House of Lords over the course of a parliamentary year, capturing how government and opposition peers try to scrutinise government legislation, comment on policy and contribute to national conversations.
He explains the role of the Lords and how the unelected peers are legally subordinate to the elected Commons, and is the weaker, revising parliamentary chamber, yet still retains a prominent place in democracy. He says:
… so any battle of wills between Lords and Commons will be won by the Commons, the more legitimate chamber. If MPs both supply and support and check and balance the government, Lords are charged with improving legislation and have the power to ask the Commons majority to ‘think again’ and invite MPs to perhaps reconsider their policy.
Personalities are allowed to come to the fore as the series highlights the new people’s peers as well as political grandees.
“By recording how the Lords works Meet the Lords provides the public with an extraordinary insight into what the Lords does and so explores the workings of a little understood British political institution,” Dr Heffernan adds.
The OU’s OpenLearn pages have got a wealth of further reading, comment and insight into the programme.
- Produced by Top Hat Productions for the BBC
- Executive Producer Darren Kemp; Series Producer Emma Whitlock
- Commissioning Editor for the BBC Gian Quaglieni
- Commissioned for The Open University by Dr Caroline Ogilvie
- Academic Consultant Dr Richard Heffernan
- Media Fellow Sue Hemmings
- Broadcast Project Manager Caroline Green
- Online Project Producer Matthew Culnane