Essex: Lord Hanningfield breaks his silence with first House of Lords speech since prison

Lord Hanningfield

Lord Hanningfield - Credit: PA

Disgraced Lord Hanningfield has broken his silence, making his first intervention in a House of Lords debate since his return to Parliament after his release from prison two years ago.

The Essex peer, who according to records legitimately claimed £40,800 and a further £3,480 in travel costs between April 2012 and May 2013 without speaking in a chamber, said he was trying to get back to his “old self” and intended to speak more regularly.

He stood up in a debate for the first time on Thursday in a session on East Anglia’s rail network.

The former Essex County Council leader was jailed for nine months in July 2011 after being found guilty of false accounting on overnight stays following an investigation into his parliamentary expenses.

He served just a quarter of his sentence and was released in September 2011, returning to his role in the House of Lords in April 2012.

Earlier this year Lord Hanningfield said he was intentionally keeping a low profile when it emerged that in the first eight months he resumed his political career he did not speak in any debate or table a written question, yet still legitimately claimed £21,000 in allowances.

Members of the House of Lords are entitled to claim a £300 daily allowance and travel costs.

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After speaking in Thursday’s debate he told the EADT: “I intend to speak quite regularly now. I used to speak every single day.

“I was a transport spokesman. I have a particular interest in transport and particularly in the Eastern region. I have had some problems, but I am now getting back to my old self.”

He defended making the claims saying: “It is not a great amount of money. I have to live. Life has been a bit hard for me and I am now trying to get back to my normal old self.”

During the debate Lord Hanningfield –whose real name is Paul White – told Lords that he did not think the railways were as good now as they had been when he was a two-year-old.

He was one of thousands of people caught up in Tuesday’s signalling problems which brought trains between London and Norwich to a standstill, prompting calls for urgent investment in the network.

Lord Hanningfield told the grand committee chamber: “It seems to me that in this day and age improving signalling should not be beyond us. Surely, given the technology we have now, signalling could be improved, and virtually all these delays are due to signalling. If some investment could be put into signalling now, we might have a better and more reliable service without billions of pounds of investment.”