Andy McSmith's Diary: Lord Hanningfield will be back next year, but bad peers could soon be out of the House of Lords for good


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The Independent Online

The most scandalous aspect of the story of Lord Hanningfield, the expenses cheat whose membership of Parliament has been suspended, is not the brass-necked way that he thinks he is entitled to £300-a-day tax-free for doing no work, but that he will be allowed back in the Lords in 2015.

There is nothing anybody can do to take away a peer’s membership of the House of Lords. Even the sanction of suspending them is new, and any suspension automatically ends when there is a general election. They cannot be sanctioned at all by Parliament if they commit a criminal offence that is not related to their parliamentary role.

In 2007, the Labour peer Nazir Ahmed was driving along the M1 when his car killed a man who had got out of his vehicle after an accident. Lord Ahmed had been sending and receiving texts while he was at the wheel, only minutes before the crash. He was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison. As soon as he was out of prison, he could resume his seat in the House of Lords, having done nothing that breached its code of conduct.

But slowly change is coming. The law will soon allow that a peer who is sentenced to a year in prison or more can be permanently expelled. It is proposed that the code of conduct be revised so that peers who bring the House into disrepute, such as Lord Ahmed, can be disciplined. None of this will affect Lord Ahmed or Lord Hanningfield, because the changes will not be retrospective.

An unhelpful hand?

David Cameron and Boris Johnson were travelling to Harrow when the Mayor spotted a woman collapsing in the street. They told their driver to pull over, and Cameron held the woman’s hand until the ambulance arrived. It was, I suppose, the right and noble thing to do, yet for some people, to be lying on a pavement feeling ill would be bad enough. Having the Prime Minister looming over you would only make it worse.

Ukip’s bottom line

Gary Robinson, a member of Ukip, has deleted a tweet in which he complained about Ukip being at the bottom of the ballot paper for the EU elections. “I was receiving an abusive tweet about it every few minutes. How would you like it?” he complains. Mr Robinson had not grasped that Ukip was at the bottom of the ballot paper because the parties are arranged in alphabetical order.

Equality BNP-style

The London spokesman for the fast-disappearing British National Party, one Steve Squire, has managed to out-xenophobe Ukip while accusing them of discrimination. He told the BuzzFeed website: “Ukip’s immigration policy discriminates against white Europeans, whereas our immigration policy is non-discriminatory. We don’t pick on white people from Europe: we don’t care where you come from, black or Asian or white, we don’t want you. We think that is a non-racist position.”

Over their dead bodies

The campaign against the proposed HS2 rail link has been principally a protest movement by people worried about the value of their homes while pretending to be concerned about the environment; but in Camden someone has shown a flash of wit.

There is a letter on the website of the Camden New Journal purportedly signed by some of the famous residents of St James’s Garden complaining about the disturbance they will suffer. The “signatories” are Charles Fitzroy, the First Baron Southampton, James Christie, founder of the auction house, the painters George Morland and John Hoppner, and Matthew Flinders, a hydrographer, each of whom has been dead for at least 200 years. St James’s Garden is their burial ground.