Disgraced lord milks another £14,000 in expenses

I worked on a Sunday Times team to analyse the House of Lords’ expenses to identify which Lords are claiming the maximum in expenses despite only rarely speaking or voting.

Lord Truscott, who voted only twice in three months but claimed £14,100, was previously named in the Sunday Times ‘Cash for Influence’ investigation after he was filmed asking for £72,000 in exchange for amending a bill. He was suspended for six months after he was found to have breached the Upper House’s code of conduct.

The full article is on the Sunday Times website here, and after the fold.

Disgraced lord milks another £14,000 in expenses

Members of the House of Lords are claiming a £300 daily allowance even though they rarely speak or vote in the chamber

Mark Hookham, Robin Henry and Cal Flyn
The Sunday Times, 12 June 2011

A disgraced peer who made more than £120,000 by exploiting the old House of Lords expenses system has taken advantage of the reformed system to claim nearly the maximum daily allowance — despite failing to speak in the upper chamber for a year.

Lord Truscott, 52, claimed £14,100 in the three months to January by racking up the daily allowance of £300. Provided that they “clock on” with Lords officials, peers do not need to prove that they have done a day’s work.

The former energy minister voted only twice during the three-month period, out of a possible 22 opportunities, and has not spoken in the upper chamber since last June.

Two years ago Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn became the first members of the Lords to be suspended since 1642 following the “lords for hire” investigation by The Sunday Times.

Truscott is among a number of peers who have claimed at, or close to, the maximum new daily attendance rate while contributing little during proceedings in the House.

The new system, which allows peers to claim £300 a day for turning up at the Lords, replaced a regime that gave peers a daily subsistence allowance and up to £174 for an overnight stay in the capital if they registered their main home outside London.

Under the old system, Truscott claimed £121,891 in allowances for overnight accommodation in London while staying at his home in the capital. He received £28,000 a year by telling the Lords his main residence was a flat in Bath.

He used the allowance to maintain a £700,000 apartment he owns in Mayfair with his Russian wife, Svetlana.

Under the new daily allowance, introduced last October, the amount peers are reimbursed no longer depends on where they register their main home.

In April this year, seven months after the new rate was introduced, Truscott sold his Bath flat for £183,000.

Truscott last week denied he had ever exploited the old expenses system. “For a number of years our Bath home was our main residence,” he said. “I have long-standing connections with the city of Bath. My grandmother lived and died there. My mother grew up there and my parents met there.”

Another peer, Baroness Goudie, sold her flat in Glasgow, which she previously registered with the House of Lords as her main residence, for £250,000 in October when the new expenses system was introduced. The Sunday Times reported in 2009 that Goudie, a friend of the former prime minister Gordon Brown, had lived nearly all of her life in London.

Goudie, 64, insisted her Glasgow flat had been her “main residence” but that she was spending more time overseas and in London. She said she stopped claiming for overnight expenses in London six months before the system changed, and denied her decision to sell the flat was linked to the reform of the system.

“There is no connection between the two. I of course continue to stay in my London home when I am attending the House of Lords,” she said.

The new expenses system costs taxpayers more than the old regime. Peers received more than £6m in allowances during the first three months of the new system, compared with £17.2m for the 12 months before.

It is left to the discretion of peers whether they claim the maximum £300 daily allowance or, if they attend for less than a full sitting day, a lower rate of £150.

An analysis of the figures show that, of 775 peers, 249 claimed on average the full attendance rate of £300. Only 91 had an average daily claim of £150 or less.

Other peers who have claimed for a high number of attendances but have contributed little in the chamber include the crossbenchers Lord Mawson and Lord Quirk.

Truscott said all his expense claims under both systems had been properly made. He accepted he had not spoken in the Lords since last year but insisted he was an “assiduous attender.”

Tagged , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: