Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Peers suspended over expenses claim

Baroness Uddin, who is facing a lengthy suspension after a sleaze watchdog found she wrongly claimed thousands of pounds in expenses
Baroness Uddin, who is facing a lengthy suspension after a sleaze watchdog found she wrongly claimed thousands of pounds in expenses
Lord Paul, who faces suspension after a sleaze watchdog found he wrongly claimed expenses
Lord Bhatia, who faces suspension after a sleaze watchdog found he had wrongly claimed tens of thousands of pounds in expenses

Three peers have been given lengthy suspensions from the House of Lords 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.

Prominent Labour peer Lord Alli raised the issue of racial bias after the decision was announced. He told peers: "Let me say from the outset I don't wish in any way to accuse any member of the committee or sub-committee of racism. That would be quite improper and wrong. But it cannot have escaped your attention that the only three members of the House who were referred to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct and subsequently investigated under these procedures were all Asian."

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