£74,000 for the most expensive peer

John Laird, an Ulster politician and public relations man, has emerged as the UK’s most expensive peer. Lord Laird claimed almost £74,000 in expenses in 2008-09, 10 per cent more than the next highest claimer.

Though he speaks only rarely in Lords debates, he also holds an unbeaten record as the most prolific asker of parliamentary questions. Answering his written questions cost the taxpayer more than £100,000 in the same year.

Another high claimer was Lord Ahmed, the Labour peer who earlier this year spent sixteen days in prison for dangerous driving. He was sending and receiving text messages only minutes before a crash on the M1, near Rotherham, in which a man died. He claimed £55,141 in 2008-09, including £4,050 for car journeys between London and his home in South Yorkshire.

Another Labour peer who has spent time in prison is the former MP Michael Watson, now Lord Watson of Invergowrie. He was given early release in May 2006, after being sentenced to 16 months for arson. He claimed £44,267 in 2008-09.

Members of the House of Lords, unlike MPs, do not lose their seats if they are convicted of a crime that draws a jail sentence. The novelist Jeffrey Archer, who was sentenced to four years for perjury in 2001, still has the title Lord Archer, but has not returned to the Lords since his release in 2003. Lord Black, the former owner of the Daily Telegraph, is still serving a prison sentence in Florida for fraud.

Peers are not paid a salary, but are entitled an attendance allowance for each day they visit the Lords while it is in session. Until July 2008, the daily rate was £82.50, but it has now gone up to £86.50. They can also claim for office costs, up to £75.00 a day at the current rate. It is proposed to merge these two into a single daily allowance of £200. Peers who live outside London can also claim £174 for overnight accommodation.

The official record of Lords expenses, published yesterday, shows that Lord Laird claimed his daily attendance allowance 145 times, at a cost of £12,319. He also claimed £30,734 for staying overnight in London, and £14,564 for flights between London and his home in Ulster. With office costs of nearly £14,000, including £598 for postage, and other travel costs, the total came to £73,206.

The next highest claimant was the former Labour MP Irene Adams, now Baroness Adams of Craiglea, who claimed £66,896.

According to Hansard, the official record, Lord Laird spoke on seven occasions during the year, usually only briefly, but that he bombarded ministers with more than 700 written questions - a steady average of five or six each day, and probably more than twice as many as any other peer. On one occasion, a minister was so deluged with written questions from this one Ulster peer that he bundled 34 of them together and answered them all in a single written statement.

Civil servants have calculated that the average cost of answering a written question, at December 2008, was £149, implying that Lord Laird questions comfortably exceeded £100,000. In the previous year he asked 715 written questions.

The 65 year old peer, who began his career in banking and later founded the Belfast firm, John Laird Public Relations, was the youngest member of the Northern Ireland parliament in 1970, when he took over the seat vacated when his father died. He was then an Ulster Unionist, but sits in the Lords as a cross bencher.

In 2000, he ran into criticism when it was discovered that he had spent over £1,000 in three months on meals in the House of Lords, for which he billed the publicly funded Ulster-Scots Agency, of which he was chairman.

Government auditors also criticised his taxi bills, including £260 for a return trip from Belfast to Dublin. Lord Laird said that there a security reason that he needed to use taxis, because he often travelled in a kilt, which made him conspicuous.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower