Senior Lib Dem mired in £40,000 second home claim steps down

Lord Rennard, the most senior Liberal Democrat embroiled in the expenses row, will step down in the autumn for what he said yesterday were health and family reasons. The departure of their chief executive saves the Liberal Democrats a potentially embarrassing row over the £40,000 he claimed for a second home.

Lord Rennard owned a flat less than two miles from the House of Lords and from his office in the party's Westminster headquarters. He is thought to have spent the £40,000 on a holiday house in Eastbourne.

The size of his claim sat uneasily alongside the high-profile campaign to clean up Parliament conducted by the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg. The Liberal Democrats have come through the expenses row with fewer embarrassing revelations than the main parties, although one of their MPs, Andrew George, came under fire for claiming expenses on a London flat used by his daughter.

And the party's millionaire home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, has been ridiculed for claiming for bus tickets, HobNob biscuits and a £119 trouser press.

One outsider said that if Lord Rennard had not offered to step down, he would have faced the prospect of an investigation by the Liberal Democrat chief whip and possible disciplinary action. "He jumped before he was pushed," the source said.

In a letter to party members, Lord Rennard said he had discussed the move with Mr Clegg "some time ago".

He wrote: "I want to be able to work more flexibly in future whilst of course continuing to help our party advance. I believe that I will be better able to do so without the administrative burdens of being chief executive and running the party's day to day organisation."

Lord Rennard said he wanted to have "something of a more normal life outside the Westminster bubble" with his retired wife, Ann. "This has become more important to me as I have struggled to maintain good diabetic control with the rigours of a very demanding lifestyle. This has proved to be increasingly difficult whilst carrying out the role of chief executive at HQ and around the country."

When details of Lord Rennard's expenses were first leaked, he defended them on the grounds that they had been "specifically" approved by the House of Lords authorities. "Peers are not paid any salary or pension for their work. But you are allowed to claim an allowance for a London property whilst maintaining a home outside London as in my case," he said.

Chris Rennard organised a series of successful by-election victories in the 1990s which boosted morale and support for the Liberal Democrats, helping them win 62 seats at the 2005 election, their best showing in decades. He was made a life peer in 1999, and appointed chief executive, in charge of the party's 40 full-time staff, in 2003.

Mr Clegg paid a warm tribute to Lord Rennard, crediting him with having steered the party "through some turbulent times". He said: "Without Chris's unique skills as one of the country's most astute and effective political campaigners, I doubt that the party would now have the largest number of MPs in decades."

The longest fortnight at Westminster: MPs caught in the spotlight

CASUALTIES

Michael Martin Labour MP for Glasgow North East

Offence: Tried to stop publication of expenses. Attacked pro-reform MPs.

Reply: Quit for sake of unity.

Prospects: Standing down as Speaker and MP next month.

Sir Peter Viggers Tory MP for Gosport

Offence: Claimed £1,645 for a duck house.

Reply: Acted "in accordance with the rules".

Prospects: To step down at election.

Andrew MacKay Tory MP for Bracknell

Offence: Claimed for second home, but appears not to have a main home.

Reply: Apologised.

Prospects: Resigned as aide to David Cameron. Facing constituents today.

Douglas Hogg Tory MP for Sleaford & N Hykeham

Offence: Claimed £2,000 to clean out moat.

Reply: Said he acted within the rules, but repaying money.

Prospects: Won't run for re-election.

Shahid Malik Labour MP for Dewsbury

Offence: Paying reduced rent.

Reply: Looks forward to having his name cleared.

Prospects: Stepped down as Home Office minister. Hopes to get job back.

David Chaytor Labour MP for Bury North

Offence: Claimed £13,000 on "phantom" mortgage.

Reply: Agreed to repay money.

Prospects: Under investigation. Suspended from parliamentary party.

Elliot Morley Labour MP for Scunthorpe

Offence: Claimed £16,000 on "phantom" mortgage.

Reply: Repaying money.

Prospects: Stood down as chair of select committee. Suspended.

Ben Chapman Labour MP for Wirral South

Offence: Claimed for part of a mortgage he had already paid off.

Reply: Said fees office approved.

Prospects: Chief whip investigating. Will stand down at next election.

Lord Rennard Liberal Democrat peer

Offence: Claimed £40,000 when owned flat near Westminster

Reply: Claims it was approved

Prospects: Stepping down as party's chief executive in autumn

Anthony Steen Tory MP for Totnes

Offence: Claimed more than £80,000 over four years on mansion.

Reply: "I don't what the fuss is about."

Prospects: Not standing again. Faces losing whip if protests continue.

UNDER FIRE

Hazel Blears Labour MP for Salford

Offence: Did not pay capital gains tax when selling her London flat.

Reply: Paid back £13,332 to taxman.

Prospects: Behaviour described by Brown as "totally unacceptable".

Jacqui Smith Labour MP for Redditch

Offence: Claimed two adult movies, watched by her husband.

Reply: Apologised. Repaid money.

Prospects: At risk of demotion or move at the next reshuffle.

Tony McNulty Labour MP for Harrow East

Offence: Claimed about £60,000 on home where parents lived.

Reply: Rules not broken as did work at the property.

Prospects: May face police probe.

Margaret Moran Labour MP for Luton South

Offence: Claimed £22,500 to fix dry rot on home miles from constituency.

Reply: Initially defensive but now repaying the money.

Prospects: Labour investigating her.

Phil Hope Labour MP for Corby and East Northants

Offence: Claimed second homes allowance to kit out London flat.

Reply: Repaying £41,709.

Prospects: Set to lose marginal seat.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas