124 peers in ‘free money’ racket: They pocket £300 a day despite having homes close to Parliament
- Daily Mail analysis found peers are taking advantage of expenses scheme
- 124 peers pocket thousands a month despite living close to House of Lords
- Scheme designed to make system fairer but favours those living in London
- Use of taxpayers’ cash will add weight to calls for reform of upper chamber
Pomp and ceremony: Baroness King of Bow (Oona King) is pictured in her House of Lords finery
More than 100 peers are pocketing thousands of pounds a month in expenses despite living close to the House of Lords, the Mail can disclose today.
Dozens are taking advantage of a scheme designed to make the system fairer following the MPs expenses scandal but which hugely favours those living in London.
The disclosures will add weight to calls for reform of the bloated upper chamber amid allegations of widespread abuse by peers living the high life on taxpayers’ cash. Analysis by the Daily Mail found that of the 161 members of the Lords who live in London, 124 have claimed the daily allowance this year.
The tax-free payments of up to £300 can be claimed by peers for each sitting day they attend Parliament. The allowance replaced the separate overnight subsistence system.
But entitlement is determined by attendance, not residence, which means peers who live in London receive the same as those who travel from outside the capital, despite not having to maintain an extra home or rent a room.
The Mail found those living in London claimed £763,350 in January and February in attendance payments alone. The average claim for the first two months of the year, the most recent data available, was £3,078 a peer.
Among the biggest claimants were a number of wealthy lords who also have significant business interests elsewhere. Others live just yards from Parliament and could easily walk.
Many more have multi-million pound homes in the capital, raising questions about why they feel they need to claim the taxpayer-funded allowance.
Lord Irvine of Lairg, 75, the former Lord Chancellor, claimed £8,700 despite living less than half a mile from Parliament in a £2.4million flat.
Crossbench peer Viscount Craigavon claimed £9,000 in the first two months of the year, visiting the Lords 30 times.
The 71-year-old, who first joined the Lords in 1974, owns the lease on a flat in Little Smith Street, less than half a mile away.
Time for change? The disclosures will add weight to calls for reform of the bloated upper chamber amid allegations of widespread abuse by House of Lords peers living the high life on taxpayers’ cash
The disclosures follow claims by disgraced Lord Sewel that the system was being roundly abused by those living in London. The 69-year-old admitted that many members of the House of Lords received money for doing ‘f*** all’.
To receive attendance cash, peers simply have to sign in by hand. They are not required to speak in debates or vote, and do not have to stay all day.
Peers can claim a lower rate of £150 even if they are doing other paid work outside the Lords on the same day. But this is entirely voluntary and depends on the conscience of the peer involved. Travel expenses can also be claimed on top of the day rate.
Last year Lord Hanningfield, a former Tory frontbencher, was suspended for 12 months after it emerged that he had been claiming the £300 attendance rate for spending as little as 21 minutes in Westminster.
Lord Taverne, a Lib Dem who claimed £8,400 in January and February, described the second chamber as oversubscribed and dysfunctional.
‘The change [in Lords expenses] favoured people who have a London residence and I don’t think it is particularly fair. There is room for a better system.’ He said he regarded the allowance as his ‘pay in lieu of a salary’.
The revelation raises fresh questions about unelected multi-millionaires being given a crucial role in making laws.
Lord Paul, the steel and engineering tycoon whose family are estimated to be worth £2billion, claimed £9,300 in the first two months of this year.
He said it would ‘almost insult’ other, less wealthy peers if he did not claim.
However a number of peers chose not to receive the payments including Lord Sterling of Plaistow. The 80-year-old Tory attended the House of Lords 18 times in January and February but did not claim any attendance money. Lord Sugar also does not claim.
All aboard the ermine gravy train
Among the peers who live close to the House of Lords and claim thousands in allowances are:
Lord Irvine of Lairg (Alexander Irvine)
The former Lord Chancellor, 75, lives in a £2.4million flat in a building described as one of London’s finest apartment blocks and just 0.4miles from Parliament. He claimed £8,700 in the first two months of this year after attending 29 times. He could not be reached for comment.
Lord Taverne (Dick Taverne)
A Lib Dem peer, he has a mortgage on a £1.5million flat just 0.4miles away from the House of Lords. The career politician claimed £8,400 after attending the Lords 30 times in January and February. He admitted yesterday the payment system is a mess.
Labour peer Lord Irvine of Lairg (Alexander Irvine), left, and Lib Dem peer Lord Taverne (Dick Taverne), right
Lord Reid (John Reid)
He claimed £8,850 for visiting the Lords 30 times in the first two months of the year. The former Labour cabinet minister, 68, owns a £3million flat less than half a mile from Parliament. He also said he receives rental income from a flat in London. Lord Reid did not respond when contacted.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Norman Lamont)
The former Tory chancellor, 73, has a mortgage on a £2.4million home, just four miles from Westminster. He claimed £9,000 in the first two months of the year after attending 30 times.
Since bowing out of mainstream politics in 1997, Lord Lamont has built up a long list of business interests and enjoys an income as a guest speaker. He did not respond when contacted.
Labour peer Lord Reid (John Reid), left, and Conservative peer Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Norman Lamont), right
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Anne Jenkin)
PR consultant Baroness Jenkin owns a townhouse in Kennington, just 1.1 miles from the House of Lords. She claimed £8,850 in the first two months of the year after attending 30 times.
The aristocrat and Conservative peer is a shareholder in three companies, including the polling firm YouGov, and receives rental income from a property in Vauxhall, South London. She could not be reached for comment.
Viscount Craigavon (Janric Fraser Craig)
The crossbench peer claimed £9,000 in the first two months of the year, visiting the Lords 30 times. The 71-year-old, who joined the House in 1974, owns the lease on a flat just across the road. Viscount Craigavon, an Eton-educated peer and one of the 92 remaining hereditaries, could not be reached for comment.
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Anne Jenkin), left, and Viscount Craigavon (Janric Fraser Craig), right
Lord Triesman (David Triesman)
A former trade union leader and Labour minister, he lives in a £1.4million house 4.3 miles from the House of Lords. Lord Triesman, 71, claimed £8,700 in the first two months of the year after attending the Lords 29 times. The one-time Communist Party member is the chairman of a private equity investment company. He is also the director of a merchant banking firm. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Lord Brougham and Vaux (Michael John Brougham)
The Conservative peer owns outright a £1million flat just 0.6 miles from the Lords. The 76-year-old claimed a total of £9,300 in January and February, visiting 31 times. The peer could not be reached for comment.
Lord Triesman (David Triesman), pictured left, and Lord Brougham and Vaux (Michael John Brougham), right
Baroness King of Bow (Oona King)
The former Labour MP claimed £8,700 in the first two months of the year after attending the Lords 29 times. She lives 6.2 miles away in a £684,000 house in East London, which was bought in 2011. Baroness King, 47, who served as an MP from 1997 to 2005, is now head of diversity at Channel 4. She did not respond to requests for comment last night.
Baroness Uddin (Manzila Pola Uddin)
The Labour peer claimed £9,300 in January in February after attending the Lords 31 times. She lives four miles from Parliament in a housing association home in East London. The 56-year-old was embroiled in the expenses scandal in 2009. She was accused of using a second home to exploit the system and claim an overnight allowance on another property. It has been claimed she owns three properties with her husband.
She could not be reached for comment.
CAMERON TO CREATE MORE LORDS
David Cameron yesterday insisted he would go ahead with plans to stuff the House of Lords with yet more peers despite the embarrassing resignation of Lord Sewel.
The Prime Minister, who wants to boost Tory representation in the upper chamber, also confirmed he would not reintroduce plans for peers to be elected.
Speaking during a visit to Singapore, he said: ‘It is important to make sure the House of Lords more accurately reflects the situation in the House of Commons.
‘That’s been the position with prime ministers for a very, very long time and for very good and fair reason.’ Although Mr Cameron has a slim majority in the Commons, and can get most of his business through the lower house, he faces a much tougher fight in the Lords over welfare and Europe.
In coalition the Tories and the Lib Dems enjoyed a majority of politically-aligned peers. But, on their own, the Conservatives fall far short. They have 227 peers, Labour 213 and the Lib Dems 102. There are 26 bishops and 38 from other parties or non affiliated, as well as 179 crossbenchers.
Already during this parliament the Tories have lost votes on devolution and an EU poll.
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