TIME is running out for reform of the unelected House of Lords, an SNP MP has warned.

Tommy Sheppard said changes proposed last October, which included reducing membership from more than 800 to 600, were “too limited and timid” and that “the window for reform is closing”.

Sheppard’s comments came as details of the perks open to peers even after they have retired were made public.

Former members of the House of Lords can bring up to six guests, and dine among government ministers in Westminster’s subsided dining rooms. That information came from a freedom of information request by a newspaper about Lord Ashcroft, the controversial billionaire former Tory treasurer, who resigned in 2015. The then Clerk of the Parliaments told Ashcroft: “The house committee has agreed that the access privileges available to retired bishops should be made available to members who retire.”

These include the right of retired members to “sit on the steps of the throne and use the library (apart from the research facilities), the peers’ guest room, the peers’ dining room with up to five guests and the Barry room with up to six guests”.

Although the law requires all peers to pay full British taxes on their worldwide income as if they were resident and domiciled in Britain, those tax rule ceases to apply after resignation. There were 835 members in the House of Lords in 2015, the world’s second largest legislature, second only to the National People’s Congress in China,

More than 70 have quit since laws allowing them to retire were brought in.

Lord Tanlaw, who resigned in November after 46 years, told the newspaper which obtained the information: “The right to have a bite there sometimes or tea on the terrace, when we are in our dotage, is very generous. It’s nice to be able to go back occasionally. The food has improved a great deal, you know. I think we have a chef from Buckingham Palace in there.”

Lord Edmiston, a Tory donor and chairman of the car importer International Motors, which gave £850,000 to Vote Leave, said: “I believe it is important to encourage peers to retire when they feel it is the right moment. To cut them off from all their friends and contacts in the two houses of parliament after perhaps years of service would be poor reward.”

Sheppard said: “Peers are not accountable to the electorate and the chamber is now stuffed with party hacks, cronies and election losing has-beens, as well as convicted criminals. It is an utter affront to democracy.

“We are fast approaching a situation where the legitimacy and credibility of the House of Lords will be in crisis. The reforms suggested in the report were too limited and timid. We cannot be in the same situation this time next year the window for reform is closing.”