Bishops in the House of Lords are claiming up to £27,000 a year in allowances for attending Westminster – on top of their annual stipends.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and i has found some bishops are claiming up to the maximum fixed allowance for attending sessions in the second chamber while having full-time jobs in their dioceses. Others attend sessions in the House without making any claim on the public purse.
Under current regulations, peers are allowed to claim a flat rate of either £300 or £150 a day to cover subsistence in London. They do not have to provide receipts and can also claim travel expenses. An analysis of the Lords allowances reveals that some bishops are spending up to two weeks in every month in the Lords – sometimes claiming the maximum allowances.
One of the highest claimers was the Bishop of Chester, who between October 2010 and November 2011 claimed £27,600 in attendence allowances and £7,309 in travel expenses.
In contrast, a number of bishops regularly attended the House but did not claim any money in attendance allowances at all. The Bishop of Birmingham attended the House of Lords on 22 occasions but claimed no money.
The Church of England has a guaranteed presence in the upper house reflecting its position as the country's established religion. Bishops can choose to attend on an ad-hoc basis.
Bishops live rent-free in their diocese, and to cover additional costs of running their historic homes they can draw upon allowances covered by the Church Commissioners.
A spokesman for the Bishop of Chester told i: "The bishop's attendance in the House of Lords was higher than usual for the period in question because of his membership of the Joint Select Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, which required him to attend weekly for several months."