Andy McSmith's Diary: No expense spared for the returning Lord Hanningfield

As long as he is careful, he can carry on claiming his £300 a day

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Indy Politics

Lord Hanningfield, Parliament’s foremost expenses fiddler, is back in action. He was banned from the House of Lords, but that ban ended after the general election. Since coming back he has not spoken in the Lords chamber, or in Grand Committee, or tabled any oral or written questions. He is not a member of any Lords committee.

All in all, he is not known to have contributed anything to the business of the House of Lords, but he has signed in on four separate days, which entitles him to a £1,200 tax-free attendance allowance.

Hanningfield, who was ennobled for his work as Tory leader of Essex County Council, was arrested and charged under the Theft Act in February 2010 because he had made fraudulent expenses claims. He returned after a spell in prison and a temporary ban from Parliament in April 2012, and started claiming his £300-a-day attendance allowance, as he was legally entitled to do. In 2012 alone, he pocketed £24,600, tax-free, without ever speaking or making any other contribution to the Lords.

Lord Hanningfield banned - for not doing any work

He came unstuck a second time after the Daily Mirror planted a photographer outside the building, who photographed him going to sign his name and leaving 20 minutes later. For that, he was banned from the building a second time, but by an absurd quirk, his fellow peers could make the ban last only until the election.

The law has been changed now, and any peer caught behaving as Lord Hanningfield behaved can be permanently expelled. But it is not retrospective, so as long as he is careful, he can carry on claiming his £300 a day.

Beckett has Corbyn’s back

Jeremy Corbyn, the voice of Labour’s unreconstructed left, achieved a rare distinction on Monday, as the only candidate in the leadership election to have had his nomination papers signed by a former party leader.

Margaret Beckett led the Labour Party for two months of 1994, between the death of John Smith and the election of Tony Blair. She had no intention of nominating Jeremy Corbyn until yesterday morning, when she contemplated what the reaction might be if Corbyn fell just one or two signatures short of what he needed to get on the ballot paper. Having nominated him, will she now vote for him? “No,” she replied. Ms Beckett is leading the inquiry into why Labour lost the election.

Shaun the sheepish

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a butler,” Shaun Woodward, who was a Labour MP until last month, told the Sunday Express. He definitely had a butler when he was David Cameron’s predecessor as Tory MP for Witney. He was ridiculed for it after he defected to Labour. Perhaps that was why he gave up having a butler. The sacrifices some MPs have to make.

House of Commodores

Lionel Richie paid a brief visit to the Commons, setting off a string of bad puns online – “is it MP you’re looking  for?” Did he stay “all night long”? etc etc. Making puns from titles of Lionel Richie hits is Easy. You just Sail On.

Slipping out of Europe

The Financial Times reports that the Bank of England’s email system has been adjusted to eliminate the auto-complete in the address box. That explains how a top secret report into Threadneedle Street’s research into the impact of a British exit from the EU got leaked: somebody’s finger slipped.