David Cameron has made his first speech in the House of Lords, telling peers it was a “surprise” to be asked to return to Government.

The new Foreign Secretary joked that the ornate surroundings of Parliament’s upper chamber are a “significant upgrade” from his “now-infamous shepherd’s hut”.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton said he had been no “Cincinnatus hovering over my plough”, in a remark aimed at fellow former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Cincinnatus, who was recalled from his farm to save ancient Rome from crisis, was referenced in a cryptic remark by Mr Johnson when he left office, and many interpreted it as meaning he envisaged the potential for a comeback to frontline politics.

Lord Cameron cannot address the House of Commons because he is not an elected MP, which critics argue will reduce democratic accountability.

The Foreign Secretary told peers he is “happy to consider other appropriate mechanisms so that Parliament is able to scrutinise all the work of my department”.

Lord Cameron was speaking as he opened the debate for the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill’s second reading in the upper chamber.

He said: “It is truly an honour to stand here at this despatch box and make my maiden speech in this House. I have always respected the work that is done here, so often a patient, diligent and considered compliment to the other place.

“And I hope to play a full part in your Lordships’ House.”

He added: “When I look at the ornate, carved wooden panels that surround us and compare them to my now-infamous shepherd’s hut, I can tell you this is already a significant upgrade.”

The Foreign Secretary said that wanting to serve under Rishi Sunak, whom he described as a “strong and capable prime minister”, was “one of the reasons why I accepted his offer of this role”.

He said: “I hope that some of my experience will help the Prime Minister in meeting the vital challenges that we face as a country.

“That said, it was a surprise to be asked. I have not been sitting like some latter-day de Gaulle at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises waiting to be asked, how shall I put it, to take back control.

“Nor am I Cincinnatus hovering over my plough. I leave all classical allusions, and indeed illusions for that matter, to another former prime minister with whom I shared a number of educational experiences.”

Lord Cameron explained that he will answer questions monthly from peers, while Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell will deputise for him in the Commons.