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Northern Ireland peer Laird claimed nearly £50k expenses but only voted twice

By PA Reporters

Lord Laird has claimed £48,279 in House of Lord expenses in a year - yet only voted twice and did not give a single speech. Campaigners criticised "couch potato peers" after new research suggested more than 100 claimed almost £1.3m despite not speaking in the Lords for a year.

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) said 115 peers - around one in seven - did not contribute in a debate during the 2016/17 parliamentary session but claimed an average of £11,091.06 each.

ERS chief Darren Hughes said: "There appears to be a growing 'something for nothing' culture in our upper house, with tidy sums being claimed by those who barely contribute."

Unelected Lord Laird (73), told the Mirror he is considered ­disabled in Westminster due to a heart condition which leaves him often unable to get to the chamber in time to vote.

He also told the newspaper that many of the issues are irrelevant to Northern Ireland.

"I am the largest supplier of written questions. About 14,000 in 18 years. People have a right to ask about the money, but I work very hard for it," the former Ulster Unionist, now an independent, added. There is no suggestion Lord Laird broke any rules or the law, but it is not the first time his expenses have hit the headlines.

He claimed expenses of £73,000 in 2008-09, making him the most expensive peer in the Lords that year. He was also suspended from the Lords for four months in 2013 being caught up in two newspapers investigations into 'cash for access'.

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