Essex: Leader of the House of Lords dismayed by Lord Hanningfield “clocking in” to claim his £300 daily allowance

Lord Hanningfield

Lord Hanningfield - Credit: PA

The leader of the House of Lords has said he is dismayed by reports by reports an Essex peer regularly “clocked in” to claim a £300 daily attendance allowance, despite spending less than 40 minutes inside the House of Lords.

The leader of the House of Lords has said he is dismayed by reports by reports an Essex peer regularly “clocked in” to claim a £300 daily attendance allowance, despite spending less than 40 minutes inside the House of Lords.

Former Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield, who was jailed for expenses fraud, has defended his actions suggesting it is normal practice, and that as many as 50 others did the same

But in a statement to the House of Lords this afternoon its leader Lord Hill of Oareford, said the behaviour cast a shadow over the whole of the House.

Lord Hanningfield - who served nine weeks of a nine-month sentence in 2011 for falsely claiming £28,000 in parliamentary expenses - said the money went on “entertaining, meeting people, employing people”, adding that he was a “full-time peer” who needed to be able to pay his electricity bill and buy food.

There is no suggestion that the former Conservative broke any rules, but he faced calls from a Labour MP for him to be investigated by parliamentary authorities over the practice.

The Daily Mirror said that on 11 of 19 days that it monitored the peer’s movements in July, he travelled to Westminster from his home in Essex but spent less than 40 minutes in the Lords before returning.

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The shortest attendance during the month was 21 minutes and the longest more than five hours, it said - with a total of £5,700 claimed in attendance allowance over the month and £471 in travel costs.

Confronted about the claims by the newspaper, Lord Hanningfield said: “Lots of peers go in and check in for their expenses, but they are using their expenses for a lot of things, entertaining, meeting people, employing people.”

He added: “Clocking in and out of Parliament is only part of being a peer.”

“By the time I have people at home to help, time I have people in the House of Lords to help me, I spend something like £150 a day on expenses, so I don’t really make any profit.”

He said: “I have to live, don’t I? I don’t do anything else. How do you think I am going to eat, how am I going to pay my electricity bills?

“My income from the Lords will be about £30,000 a year, I pay about that in £18,000 in expense to other people, I’ll end up with £12,000 a year.”

He told the newspaper: “I can name 50 that do it. I see the same people go in and out as I do. I don’t want to be persecuted.”

The former leader of Essex County Council, who was stripped of the Tory whip in 2010, said that in July he had been “trying to get myself back on track” after suffering a breakdown because of the expenses scandal.

Since October, he said, he had “dramatically” upped his contributions in the Lords - speaking twice, including on a debate on East Anglian rail, and attending committees.

An guide for peers on claiming the £300 daily allowance says that it is available to those “who certify that they have carried out appropriate Parliamentary work”.

Lord Hill said there were steps already in train to deal with the small number of members “whose behaviour falls below the standards we rightly expect”.

Proposals have been put to a House of Lords committee which would see financial support and access to facilities withdrawn from peers who breach the Code of Conduct, which is expected to be put beford the House of Lords in the new year.

A private members’ bill is also being brought forward by MP Dan Byles to change the law so members who commit a serious criminal offence could be expelled.

He added: “Despite stories like today, I am extremely proud of the work that we do in this Chamber – of legislating, scrutinising and holding the Government to account.”