How peers do it at a fraction of the cost

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Indy Politics

The House of Lords cost £106.4m to run last year - less than a quarter of the £469m bill for the Commons - with peers' expenses of £15.6m accounting for 15 per cent of the budget for the upper chamber.

Unlike MPs, peers are not paid a salary, with the exception of ministers and the law lords and some office holders, but they can claim a daily subsistence of £77 for attending a sitting or a select committee.

Overnight expenses can also be claimed by a peer, at the rate of £154.50 for those who do not live within a reasonable daily travelling distance of Westminster. Office costs can be charged at the rate of £67 per day.

The two opposition parties and the convenor of the crossbench peers receive financial help for their parliamentary business: £426,236 a year for the Conservatives, £212,863 a year for the Liberal Democrats and £38,208 a year for the convenor of the crossbench peers.

Staff salaries and administrative costs accounted for 22 per cent of the Lords budget.

With security being stepped up around the Palace of Westminster, the cost of security in the upper house rose to almost £10m, which is 9 per cent of its budget.

A sixth of the annual operating costs went on repairs and maintenance of the building, including restoring stonework and fitting cables for computer links.

The Lords sat for 134 days last year, 18 fewer than the previous year because it was a general election year.

According to figures published yesterday, an average of more than 400 peers attended the Lords on sitting days. Attendance has been steadily increasing over the past four decades - it was regularly less than 150 in the early Sixties.

* Reform of the House of Lords could be forced through despite opposition from peers if it is agreed by MPs, Jack Straw said last night. The Leader of the Commons, who next month publishes reform plans for the Lords, hinted that the Government would be prepared to use the Parliament Act to override peers as a last resort.