A Tory peer accused of fiddling his House of Lords expenses said he was "out of pocket" for taking on the peerage and had tried to balance out his expenditure using his expenses claims, a court has been told.
Lord Hanningfield, 70, who is being tried under his name Paul White, said he "averaged out" his claims to recoup some of the money he had spent as a result of his parliamentary duties, Chelmsford Crown Court heard
When the former leader of Essex County Council was questioned by police, he told detectives to look at the records of other peers and claimed he was not the only one claiming expenses in such a manner.
He said he felt as though he had been "singled out" and that his claims were "no different" from any other peer, the jury heard.
White, who faces six counts of false accounting, told police: "I have done the same as 500 or 600 other peers. I averaged them out because of my total expenditure.
"I have spent all of my money, £200,000, being a peer, and I have claimed £150,000 back. I have claimed what I thought I could within the law. I have never done anything illegal in my life."
He said he was forced to borrow money to "sustain" his public service.
"I have just put so much money into my public life," he added. "I regret ever becoming a peer, I wish I had just stuck at the county council."
White is accused of making false claims for accommodation and travel costs incurred before or after performing his duties in the House of Lords between March 2006 and April 2009. He denies all six charges of false accounting.
The trial, expected to last two weeks, continues.