Lord Hanningfield says of allowance claims: ‘I have to live, don’t I?’

Case raises questions over Lords membership rules

Lord Hanningfield, the peer who has been claiming more than £3,000 a month for turning up at the House of Lords since he left prison, told his accusers on Tuesday: "I don't want to be persecuted."

The peer, whose extraordinary return to the House of Lords has been catalogued for months by The Independent, was forced back into the spotlight after the Daily Mirror photographed him coming and going from Parliament on 12 separate days, showing that on each day he spent less than an hour in the building – but still claimed the £300-a-day attendance allowance to which he is legally entitled.

Lord Hanningfield, a former Conservative leader of Essex County Council, was convicted in May 2011 of fiddling his House of Lords expenses, for which he served nine weeks of a nine-month jail sentence and was suspended from the House of Lords for six months.

But the unique rules governing the House of Lords meant that his fellow peers were powerless to stop him returning once his suspension had come to an end. He turned up on almost every day that the House of Lords was in session from April 2012, and by the end of July had claimed a grand total of £51,300 in attendance allowances – an average of £3,206 a month, tax free.

During that entire period, he did not once speak or ask a written or oral question in the House of Lords. He has still not spoken in the main chamber since his arrest, but has made a couple of speeches in committee meetings and tabled some written questions.

His case is likely to speed up reforms to the House of Lords, whose leader, Lord Hill, said on Tuesday that he was “completely dismayed” by the bad publicity Lord Hanningfield has generated – “dismayed about the behaviour, and dismayed about the shadow it casts over the whole House”.

The House of Lords is unique in that no member can be permanently expelled, regardless of what they do to lower the reputation of the place. The most severe penalty the Lords can impose on a peer is to suspend him or her until the next general election, but after that each peer receives a writ of summons from the Queen ordering him to attend the new Parliament – and that writ cannot be overruled.

Earlier this month, the House Committee announced that it was going to give the Privileges Committee the power to say that even if a disgraced peer comes back, they can still be banned from claiming any money or using the subsidised facilities in the building. But the power to expel a peer permanently requires an Act of Parliament.

A Tory MP, Dan Byles, is piloting a private members’ Bill that would give the Lords the power to expel a member who has been convicted of a serious criminal offence. It has a good chance of becoming law, with government backing.

Paul White, as Lord Hanningfield was formerly known, was Tory leader of Essex Council from 2001 to 2010, and was made a peer in 1998. He lost the Tory whip when he was convicted of the expenses scam, and is now an independent peer. “Lots of peers go in and check in for their expenses but they are using their expenses for a lot of things – entertaining, meeting people, employing people. Clocking in and out of Parliament is only part of being a peer,” he said.

“I have to live, don’t I? I don’t do anything else. How do you think I am going to eat, how am I going to pay my electricity bills?”

He added that he had increased his contribution to the Lords “dramatically” since making his first speech in October. “I was trying to get myself organised after a nervous breakdown, a traumatic period. I don’t want to be persecuted,” he said.

Lord Hanningfield is right to imply that he is not the only peer to have benefited from the uniquely lax rules governing the House of Lords. Lord Taylor of Warwick, a former Tory peer, also went to prison for fiddling his expenses, but he too has been claiming his daily attendance allowance since his suspension expired in June 2012. By the end of July 2013, he had claimed £34,200 in 14 months.

Baroness Uddin, an ex-Labour peer, was not prosecuted but she was ordered to repay more than £125,000 in expenses she should never have claimed. She seldom misses a sitting day, and by the end of July had claimed £47,400 in 14 months.

In any normal workplace, these people would have been sacked for dishonesty. If they were MPs, they would have lost their seats. But for the troughers in ermine, the feast never ends.

Lordly disdain: ‘It’s not a great deal of money’

5 November 2011

The Independent’s Diary noted that although Lord Hanningfield and that other expenses cheat, Lord Taylor of Warwick, had been suspended from the Lords after being jailed, they could not be permanently excluded, but “there will doubtless be disapproving looks if Lord Taylor or Lord Hanningfield has the gall to show his face in the building again”.

11 November 

The Diary noted they could expect a letter from the Privileges Committee asking them not to embarrass fellow peers by returning.

25 April 2012

Lord Hanningfield’s suspension was over, and the Diary noted that a “convicted criminal recently released from jail slipped into the House of Lords on Monday, registered his presence, and slipped out again, unchallenged. He  was Lord Hanningfield”.

14 November

“There is only one workplace in the United Kingdom where someone can be caught making fraudulent expenses claims, go to prison, then return to the old place of work to carry on claiming,” the Diary noted, as figures showed Lord Hanningfield’s claims had reached £8,481 in attendance allowance and travel costs in three months.

14 March 2013

New figures brought the total of his known claims for attendance allowances to £15,900, plus £1,329 costs.

11 April

The previous November, Lord Hanningfield had claimed £5,100 in attendance allowance, plus £401 travel costs. His claims for attendance allowance to that month totalled £21,000.

9 September

By now, the Diary could tot up how much Lord Hanningfield claimed in the first year since his return. It was £36,900, tax free.

11 October

His known total claims were now £40,800 in 14 months. Up to this point, he had not spoken in the Lords, nor asked a written or oral question since he started claiming his attendance allowances.

15 October

Lord Hanningfield broke his silence by speaking at a committee meeting on East Anglia’s railway system.

14 November

He tabled a written question, the first since his reappearance. New figures showed he had claimed £45,600 in attendance allowances in 15 months. He told a newspaper: “It’s not a great amount of money.”

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Financial Services, SQL, Stored Procedure

£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: One of the mos...

Senior UNIX Engineer (UNIX, Linux, Solaris, IBM MQ Server)

£62000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior UNIX Engineer (UNIX, Linux, Solaris...

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice