Sunday 23 February 2020 12:24 pm

House of Lords allowances surge in 'rolling expenses scandal'

Expenses and allowances claimed by peers in the House of Lords rose by one-third last year in what has been described as a “rolling expenses scandal”.

Analysis, by the Sunday Times, found that peers’ daily attendance allowance and expenses rose by 29 per cent to £23m in the year to March 2019.

Read more: Tory chairman James Cleverly confirms House of Lords move may be on the cards

The analysis found the average tax-free payment was £30,827, with one life peer, ex-Labour minister Lord Jack Cunningham, claiming £79,437 in 2018-19.

Peers are able to claim a daily attendance fee for signing into Westminster, which is set to rise by 3.1 per cent to £323-a-day.

However, there have been claims that some peers sign in to Westminster without doing much parliamentary work.

Lord Cunningham spoke just 17 times in the House of Lords in 2018-19, despite claiming his daily allowance 159 out of a possible 161 times.

Lord Swraj Paul – whose family has an estimated fortune of £2bn – claimed £47,885 in expenses and spoke only once in the chamber.

Lord David Goddard signed in 160 times, claimed £65,115 and spoke just six times.

Senior director at the Electoral Reform Society Willie Sullivan said there is no current mechanism to dissuade peers from gaming the system.

“Unelected Lords are taking advantage of the lack of scrutiny in the upper chamber,” he said.

“The Lords is a rolling expenses scandal — and we’ll see this year after year unless there is reform.”

A spokesperson for the House of Lords said the large increase in 2018-19 was because of a 25 per cent increase in sitting days compared to the year earlier.

“As Members of the Lords can generally only claim allowances for days they attend the House any increase in sitting days is likely to produce an increase in the cost of Member’s allowances,” they said.

“The number of sittings days was lower in 2017/18 than usual due to the General Election.”

The new figures come as the size of the House of Lords is set to grow to its largest point since Tony Blair abolished the majority of hereditary peers in 1999.

The latest round of peerage nominations is expected to bring the total to 834.

City figures Peter Cruddas and Michael Spencer are expected to be nominated by Boris Johnson, alongside ex-chancellors Phillip Hammond and Ken Clarke.

Read more: Does Philip Hammond deserve a peerage?

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has nominated his chief of staff Karie Murphy, former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and former speaker John Bercow.

However, Bercow’s position is in doubt as he is in under a cloud of bullying allegations that may scupper his chances of going to the House of Lords.

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