Peers suspended from Lords over expenses claims

Three peers were given lengthy suspensions from the House of Lords today after wrongly claiming thousands of pounds in expenses.

Labour peers Baroness Uddin and Lord Paul, and crossbencher Lord Bhatia, were suspended after the upper chamber approved the damning judgments of its Privileges and Conduct Committee.

Lady Uddin was suspended until the end of the parliamentary session in 2012 and told to repay £125,349.10.

Lord Bhatia was sidelined for eight months and has already repaid more than £27,000.

Lord Paul was suspended for four months and has already returned £41,982.

The sanctions are the toughest imposed on misbehaving members for more than 300 years.

Lady Uddin and crossbencher Lord Bhatia were found to have acted "not in good faith" by incorrectly declaring their main homes in order to claim generous overnight allowances.

An initial investigation decided that Lord Paul had also acted "not in good faith" in his home designations.

However, the committee rejected this finding on appeal, accepting that although "utterly unreasonable" and "negligent", he had not been "dishonest" and had already returned £41,982 last year.

In Lady Uddin and Lord Bhatia's cases, the sanctions are significantly heavier than those meted out to Labour members Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn after a political lobbying scandal last year.

The pair were excluded for around six months and became the first to be suspended from the upper house since the 17th century.

The expenses abuses centre around the allowance of £174 a day that was, until recently, available to peers whose main home was outside the M25.

Lady Uddin claimed more than £100,000 between 2005 and 2010 by stating that her main residence was a small flat in Maidstone, Kent, rather than her family home in east London.

Lord Bhatia had claimed £27,446 in expenses on the basis that his main home was a small flat occupied by his brother in Reigate, Surrey, even though he and his wife were listed on the electoral roll at their long-standing address in Hampton, south-west London.

Lord Paul, a steel magnate and one of Britain's wealthiest men, lived in London but designated a one-bedroom flat in an Oxfordshire hotel that he owned as his main home.

All three also claimed travel expenses.

A Labour Party spokesman confirmed that Lord Paul had resigned his membership, while Lady Uddin had been suspended amid moves to expel her.