I was out of pocket, claims Lord Hanningfield

A Tory peer accused of fiddling his House of Lords expenses said he was "out of pocket" for taking on the peerage and had tried to balance out his expenditure using his expenses claims, a court heard.

Lord Hanningfield, 70, who is being tried under his name Paul White, said that he "averaged out" his claims to recoup some of the money he had spent as a result of his parliamentary duties, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

When the former leader of Essex County Council was questioned by police, he told detectives to look at the records of other peers and claimed he was not the only one claiming expenses in such a manner.

He said he felt as though he had been "singled out" and that his claims were "no different" from any other peer.

White, who faces six counts of false accounting, told police: "I have done the same as 500 or 600 other peers.

"I averaged them out because of my total expenditure.

"I have spent all of my money, £200,000, being a peer, and I have claimed £150,000 back. I have claimed what I thought I could within the law. I have never done anything illegal in my life."

He said he was forced to borrow money to "sustain" his public service.

"I have just put so much money into my public life," he added.

"I regret ever becoming a peer, I wish I had just stuck at the County Council."

White is accused of making false claims for accommodation and travel costs incurred before or after performing his duties in the House of Lords between March 2006 and April 2009.

White said he believed he was entitled to make the claims because the system was an "allowance" scheme, not an expenses system, jurors were told.

"It is an allowance scheme, not a reimbursement scheme," he told police during an interview.

"Quite honestly, people see it as a way of recouping what we spend.

"Over the years, I have spent £50,000 to £60,000 more than I have ever claimed in the House of Lords."

During the second day of his trial, jurors were read a statement which he provided to police during an interview at Colindale police station in north London in August 2009.

During the interview, an officer asked White if he could read the statement aloud but he admitted that he could not for fear he would "pass out".

"I am nearly 70 and I work very hard and I am horrified about this," he told detectives from the economic and specialist crime directorate at New Scotland Yard.

"I am worried that if I read it, I will pass out."

In the statement, White said: "I am surprised and upset by allegations in the media by Bob Russell that I have made false representation in relation to claims I have made - I have never knowingly made a representation which is untrue in terms of allowances and never have I made gain for myself.

"I do not believe that I have made any false claims within the allowance scheme.

"I have always been told that total allowances claimed should not exceed that of actual expenses incurred. I do not believe I have broken this rule.

"I am actually out of pocket as a result of my parliamentary duties as we do not receive any salary."

He said that he did not believe overnight subsistence meant you had to stay in London .

The statement continued: "Overnight allowance does not necessarily mean that the member had to sleep in London.

"I believe that it is widely understood that this includes subsistence during or after sittings regardless of where the member actually sleeps."

But he admitted that he had never gone over the rules about expenses in detail.

He said: "I have to confess that I have never been directed to a rule book and I have never had the time to refer to it either. I suspect that applies to the vast majority of peers."

When the police probed him on his statement, he explained that he was a very busy man and that he worked extremely hard for both the House and the County Council.

He said he had a "horrendous" workload and that he had total power over the council which employs 40,000 people and has a £2.2 billion annual turnover.

"Essex is as big as Northern Ireland," he said.

"So my job is something like the equivalent of being prime minister of Northern Ireland. It is bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia.

"We have the same size economy as Cuba - it is a very busy job."

Yesterday Clare Montgomery QC, prosecuting, said that in March 2006, White made claims for travel every Friday of the month, when in fact, the Lords only sits on a Friday on the odd occasion.

Today the court heard a statement from White's former driver Paul Byatt who said that White "rarely" spent Fridays at the House of Lords.

Mr Byatt, who was employed by Essex County Council between 2006 and 2009 as a chauffeur to White, said the peer usually reserved Fridays for work at Essex County Council and spent approximately three or four days each week in the Lords.

"Very exceptionally he spent five days per week in Westminster," said Mr Byatt.

He said that since June 2006 he had dropped White to the House of Lords and left him to make his own way back on 20 to 25 occasions.

He added: "I have never taken him to a central London hotel to stay the night."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform