Lord Hanningfield has returned to the House of Lords with a suggestion to Government - help the elderly to adopt a pet.

Lord Hanningfield has made a return to the House of Lords

Lord Hanningfield has made a return to the House of Lords - Credit: PA

Lord Hanningfield has returned to the House of Lords using one of his first interventions to quiz the Government on plans to encourage the elderly to adopt pets.

The former Essex County Council leader, who was jailed for fraud in 2011, hit the headlines again last year when he was found to have wrongly claimed thousands of pounds after turning up to parliament for just 40 minutes.

He was suspended from the House of Lords last year, and had to pay back £3,300 - but he was allowed to return after the General Election in May.

Since the start of the new parliament he has tabled two questions, a device for parliamentarians to obtain information from ministers, but he has not yet spoken in the House of Lords chamber. It is not yet clear how many days he has travelled to Westminster as the House of Lords is yet to publish the allowances claimed by peers for May and June.

In his first question, asked earlier this month, he questioned what steps the Government was taking “to encourage commuters to give up their seats to the elderly and differently able”.

And this week, he has asked minister what plans they have to encourage the elderly to adopt or interact with pets.

He said in the question that research had found that animals had a positive impact on people who suffer depression or loneliness.

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The case of Lord Hanningfield prompted reforms, and a law has been passed which means peers who are jailed for a year lose their seat in parliament.

But the change only applies to new cases.

At the time of his suspension, the former Essex local authority leader said he had been unaware that what he was doing was wrong, and he had believed the allowance was a “de-facto” salary.

He also said last May that he would complete an autobiography during his time away from the House of Lords.

Lord Hanningfield could not be reached for comment for comment.