Andy McSmith's Diary: £300 a day, just for turning up. Not bad work if you can get it...


Lord Hanningfield, the trougher in ermine, has extracted another wodge of cash from the public purse. The latest published list of expenses from the House of Lords shows that Hanningfield, who has done time in jail for fiddling expenses, claimed £3,600 in attendance allowances in December, lawfully this time.

The Hansard record shows he has not spoken or asked any oral or written questions in the Lords since he was originally charged under the Theft Act in February 2010, but since April of last year, the man who rose to prominence as Paul White, leader of Essex County Council, has been turning up regularly to sign in and claim the £300 a day to which he is still legally entitled. We now know that in the nine months to the end of 2010, he pocketed £24,600 in attendance allowances entitlements, plus £2,045 in travel expenses.

Lord Taylor of Warwick, another ex-Tory, is another beneficiary of the archaic rule that makes the Lords the only workplace in Britain where someone who has been jailed for fiddling expenses has an absolute right to go back and claim some more. He has not made a speech since his release, either, although he has put down some written questions. He trousered £15,600 of allowances to which he was entitled in June to December 2012.

The former Labour peer Pola Uddin, who was not prosecuted but was made to repay more than £125,000 of dodgy expenses, claimed £19,200 in the same period. For purposes of comparison, latest Office for National Statistics figures say that the average annual earnings of people who actually work full-time for a living is £26,500.

Gillan separates men from boys

“It is a boy’s toy. It is a boy’s train – it is about speed and about going faster and there is some very basic juvenile instincts attached to it,” the former Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan has told the current issue of The House Magazine, the in-house journal for MPs – from which you may deduce that she is not a fan of HS2, the proposed high-speed rail link that featured prominently in this week’s Queen’s Speech.

No, it’s not Millar time

It was rumoured that Fiona Millar, campaigner for state education and long-term partner of Alastair Campbell, was a shoo-in to be the next Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, where the incumbent, Glenda Jackson, who turned 77 today, is standing down. Her replacement will come from an all-women shortlist. Then Millar sprung a surprise last week by saying she was not running. Actually, it was far from certain that she would have won the nomination anyway, because Tulip Siddiq, an ambitious young Camden councillor, decided to take her on.

Cllr Siddiq has chalked up an impressive list of backers, including Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the Commons, and Neil Kinnock.

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