A "daft" expenses system that allows peers to pocket a £300 daily allowance despite spending almost no time in Parliament must be reformed, senior figures have demanded.
Lord Steel spoke out after an ex-Tory expenses cheat defended regularly "clocking in" to receive the cash but leaving after less than 40 minutes.
Disgraced Lord Hanningfield - who returned to the upper chamber after serving a jail term in 2011 for fiddling his expenses - said half of its members did the same.
He claimed the requirement to be seen in the chamber to qualify was "only a mechanism for paying you" and that failing to speak or vote should not be a bar to receiving the cash.
The Daily Mirror's expose of his series of brief visits to Westminster from his Essex home sparked cross-party talks on how to tighten the rules.
Shadow Lords leader Baroness Royall has suggested a minimum attendance could be set - perhaps around four hours - which could be monitored using peers' electronic passes.
But the case of Lord Hanningfield - who served nine weeks of a nine-month sentence for falsely claiming £28,000 in taxpayer-funded expenses - also sparked calls for wider reform, including an end to the "absurd anachronism" of convicted criminals retaining their seats.
The Electoral Reform Society said it was " no wonder people feel alienated from politics when they see peers clocking on for £300 a day and clocking off shortly after".
It demanded an end to "lucrative and comfortable jobs for life" and a revival of coalition plans for an elected second chamber - which were derailed by Tory backbench MPs.
On 11 of 19 days that the newspaper monitored Lord Hanningfield's movements in July, he spent less than 40 minutes in the Lords before returning to his home in Essex.
The shortest attendance during the month was 21 minutes and the longest more than five hours, - with £5,700 claimed in attendance allowance and £471 in travel costs, it said.
Lord Steel - the former Liberal leader who has led efforts to secure stronger disciplinary action against peers who abuse the system - said he would not comment about the individual case, pointedly adding "I don't even know what he looks like".
He accepted that much of any peer's work was outside of debates, pointing out that he did not get an allowance for a recent 12-hour day because he didn't make it to the chamber.
But he said the allowance was "supposed to represent work in parliament" and it was wrong to claim if for only a brief stay.
The official guide for peers on claiming the £300 daily allowance says simply that it is available to those "who certify that they have carried out appropriate Parliamentary work".
"It's a rather daft system," Lord Steel told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.
"If you had a swipe-in, swipe-out system then you would know how long people spend there."
A defiant Lord Hanningfield issued a staunch justification of his claims - telling the newspaper "I have to live, don't I".
Most of the money went on "entertaining, meeting people, employing people," he said - claiming he would "end up with £12,000 a year" for himself.
"I don't do anything else. How do you think I am going to eat, how am I going to pay my electricity bills?", he added - saying he could "name 50" others who used the same method.
He explained his failure to debate and vote in Ju ly as a consequence of easing himself back in to parliament after the "trauma" of his prison term - saying his contributions were now up.
And he said that while he "made some mistakes" in the past and repaid £70,000, he was the victim of a "miscarriage of justice" and wished he had appealed against his conviction.
Labour MP John Mann called for a "full investigation into how he has been allowed to get away with it" and a "proper and transparent spring cleaning" in the Lords.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, dismissed any changes to the expenses system as "tinkering at the edges" and called for fundamental reform.
"It's no wonder people feel alienated from politics when they see peers clocking on for £300 a day and clocking off shortly after," she said.
"After all, who'd be able to get away with that in normal life?"
Backbench legislation being debated by MPs - and expected to get the ministerial support needed to become law - would allow those jailed for a year or more to be expelled.
Ms Ghose said while removing that " absurd anachronism" was welcome, there needed to be much deeper reforms of the Lords "to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
"The House of Lords is an anachronism which gives people lucrative and comfortable jobs for life. An elected House of Lords would allow the public to hold their lawmakers to account - and that's what democracy is all about."
David Cameron's official spokesman said he had not spoken to the Prime Minister about the peer's claims but told reporters: "I understand the concerns that have been raised."
A senior Liberal Democrat source said: "This is just more evidence of a House of Lords crying out for meaningful reform.
"We have argued for more than 100 years that the people who make the laws of the land should be elected by the people who have to obey them.
"We will do so again in 2015. It will be for the other parties to explain where they stand on Lords reform after vested interests in both the Labour and Conservative parties conspired to block it in this parliament."
Lord Hanningfield's behaviour came under fire from the Leader of the Lords, who said he was " dismayed about the shadow it casts over the whole House".
Amendments to the peers' code of conduct would be examined, Lord Hill said in statement, to allow more discretion to act against members who "bring the House into disrepute".
There was already action in train to introduce a new sanction of withdrawing financial support and access to facilities from members who breach the code, he pointed out.
That is due to be brought forward early next year.
He indicated that the Government supported Tory MP Dan Byles' bill to expel those guilty of serious criminal offences and hoped it would become law.
But under the proposed reform, only those sentenced to a year or more in prison would lose their seats - bringing the Lords into line with the Commons.
So even if the proposed changes had been in place, Lord Hanningfield would not have automatically lost his seat as he was jailed for only nine months.
"Ultimately the reputation of this House rests in all our hands, which is why I believe noble Lords will want to support steps to strengthen the sanctions available to us," said Lord Hill.
He said it was important "for us to deal with the small number of members whose behaviour falls below the standards we rightly expect".