Expenses cheats may face Lords ban

 

Expenses cheats Lord Taylor of Warwick and Lord Hanningfield face being suspended from the House of Lords for the same period as their prison sentences.

The disgraced former Conservative peers were freed from jail in September after serving only a quarter of their terms for fiddling their parliamentary expenses.

The House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee today recommended that Lord Taylor of Warwick was suspended from the House for 12 months while Lord Hanningfield should face a nine month ban.

If approved by peers, the suspensions would run from the date they were sentenced.

Lord Taylor, 58, was jailed for 12 months in May for fraudulently claiming more than £11,000 in taxpayers' money.

An investigation by the independent Lords Commissioner for Standards found that he wrongly claimed £24,311.70. He has repaid the amount in full.

Under today's recommendation, he would return to the upper chamber at the end of next May.

The Birmingham-born former barrister became the first black Conservative peer when he took his seat in the House of Lords in 1996.

He told the House of Lords members' expenses office that his main residence was a house in Oxford, when he really lived in west London, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The peer never stayed in, and only twice visited, the Oxford property, which was owned by the partner of his half-nephew, Robert Taylor. He was therefore not entitled to claim money from the Lords authorities for travelling from there to London and staying overnight in the capital.

When he passed sentence, Mr Justice Saunders said Lord Taylor had thrown away his many positive achievements in public life "not by one stupid action but by a protracted course of dishonesty".

Lord Taylor said today he was "full of remorse" but would use what had happened to "help others" in the future.

He said: "I regret that my actions have brought the House into disrepute and for that I apologise.

"I regard it as a privilege to serve the public and I am full of remorse for what I did, which I accept was entirely wrong.

"I repaid in full the total amount of monies requested as quickly as I could, and have also served a prison sentence.

"I intend to use my recent experiences, particularly the time spent in prison, in a positive way to enable me to help others in the future.

"I am grateful that I will be able to return to my duties as a member of the House of Lords in June 2012."

Lord Hanningfield, 70, received a nine-month sentence in July after falsely claiming £13,379 in parliamentary expenses for overnight stays in London when he was not in the capital, including one occasion when he was on board a flight to India.

The Lords commissioner's inquiry found he wrongly claimed £30,254.50. So far, the former pig farmer has repaid £1,800.

He told the conduct committee he planned to repay the full amount and would not return to the House until he had done so. Under today's proposals he would be allowed to take his seat in April next year.

Last month, it emerged the peer planned to take legal action against police for his "unlawful arrest" over allegations relating to money claimed when he was leader of Essex County Council.

In a letter before claim to Essex Police, his lawyers stated he was seeking £3,000 for unlawful arrest and detention, £1,500 for trespass, plus legal costs.

Mark Spragg of Keystone Law said at the time Lord Hanningfield wanted compensation from police because he "has suffered at their hands".

The House of Lords will decide whether to accept the conduct committee's recommendations when it debates the reports on both peers on Wednesday November 9.

Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Lord Hanningfield and Lord Taylor of Warwick stole from taxpayers and lied.

"It's shocking that disgraced peers are to be allowed back into the House of Lords.

"The expenses scandal damaged taxpayers' trust in Parliament. Watching politicians who failed to accept their guilt return to their seats like nothing has happened will only further undermine public faith in the system."

PA

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