The Labour Party has been hit with another row over parliamentary allowances after allegations that a peer claimed about £100,000 for a house that neighbours said had been empty for years.
Both the police and the Westminster authorities have been asked to investigate the expenses claims made by the Labour peer, Baroness Uddin, who had worked closely with Tony and Cherie Blair. It was alleged yesterday that she was able to claim the second-home allowance by registering a two-bedroom apartment in Maidstone, Kent, as her main home. The allowance is designed for peers who live outside London, but Baroness Uddin's main home is just four miles from Westminster, in Wapping.
Yvonne Adams, a neighbour who has lived next to the Maidstone flat in question for several years, told The Sunday Times: "I can't emphasise enough how no one has lived there. They just haven't. I know that for a fact." Neighbours also alleged that the flat was unfurnished.
Angus Robertson, the leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, which has led calls to tighten up the parliamentary expenses system, said he would be asking for official investigations into the claims by both the Metropolitan Police and the House of Lords authorities. "This report just highlights how the House of Lords is unelected, unaccountable and completely unbelievable," he said. "I will be writing to the police and the House of Lords authorities asking them to investigate this report."
Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, also backed the calls for an investigation by the Lords authorities.
Baroness Uddin could not be reached for comment last night. But in a statement made through her solicitors, she said: "I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or breached any House of Lords rules. Should the relevant House of Lords authorities wish to investigate the matter I will, of course, co-operate fully. The Wapping house is rented, while I own the property in Maidstone. The Maidstone property is furnished and I strongly deny that I have never lived there. Indeed I have stayed there regularly since buying it."
Baroness Uddin was the first Muslim ever to be appointed a peer in 1998. Her Facebook page lists the Cabinet ministers Hazel Blears, Harriet Harman and David Miliband among her friends.