House of Lords suspends three from parliament in expenses clampdown
Lady Uddin, Lord Paul and Lord Bhatia face suspension and must to pay back £125,000, £40,000 and £27,000 respectively
Three peers were today suspended from parliament – the toughest punishment enacted in the House of Lords in modern times – after an inquiry found that each had broken expenses rules to wrongly claim tens of thousands of pounds.
Lady Uddin, Lord Paul and Lord Bhatia all face suspension from the house and have been ordered to pay back £125,000, £40,000 and £27,000 respectively. Tonight Uddin was ejected from the Labour party and Paul resigned.
Only two other peers have ever been suspended from the Lords before. There will be a vote in the house on Thursday, which is expected to ratify the sanctions.
All three peers were accused of naming properties outside London as their primary residence in order to designate their London homes as their second property and maximise their claims for the £174 overnight allowance. Uddin and Bhatia were judged to have deliberately broken the rules while Paul breached the rules demonstrating “gross irresponsibility and negligence” but did not act in bad faith.
An investigation by the Lords sub-committee on members’ interests, chaired by the former MI5 chief Lady Manningham-Buller, was published today by the House of Lords standards and privileges committee along with recommended sanctions.
It revealed that Uddin, a community worker in east London and working peer, firstly claimed that her brother’s flat, then a flat she bought in Kent, was her first home. In fact, she rarely stayed away from her main home, rented by her husband from a housing association in Wapping, four miles from central London. The committee rejected Uddin’s argument that the flats had been “bolt-holes” during a troubled period in her marriage.
Neighbours to her Kent flat testified that the flat was empty and car bay unused by Uddin. They reported that on the Friday before the Sunday Times exposed the allegations against her, net curtains went up in the windows and there seemed to be “a lot of activity” in the flat.
She wrongly claimed £125,349 and faces faces an 18-month suspension, which was reduced from three years on appeal.
Paul, a steel magnate and Labour donor who is 115th on the Sunday Times rich list, claimedthat his primary residence was a flat in a hotel he owned. He “freely” admitted he had never spent a night there. Paul faces a four-month suspension and has already repaid £41,982.
Bhatia, a cross-bencher, has lived in a £1.5m family home in Hampton, south west London, for 20 years, but from 2007 claimed his primary residence was a two-bedroom flat in Reigate, Surrey, which was occupied by his brother. The committee rejected Bhatia’s argument that he was “downsizing” to the flat. He faces an eight month suspension and has already repaid £27,446.
Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Lords, said: “I was shocked by these cases. There was a clear and serious abuse of taxpayers’ money”. He added that the rules had been scrapped so “bogus” claims could no longer be made.