Saturday, 30 May 2009

Labour Peer is first lord to be caught in expenses-gate

Tomorrow The Times reveals that a Labour peer and former chairman of the party has admitted that he ‘fiddled’ his expenses to make up for not being paid a salary.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead had even claimed for overnight stays in London when, in fact, he drove home. He is the first member of the House of Lords to concede that peers knowingly abuse their allowances to boost their income. He had claimed up to £18,000 a year for overnight subsistence when he had often stayed with friends for free in the capital or had even returned to his home in St Albans, about an hour from London. While accepting personal responsibility, Lord Clarke implied that the practice was common, saying:
"I was given the impression – more than that – I was given a very clear steer that this was a way of getting remuneration in the absence of salary.
"I was told you claim the full amount [for overnight expenses]. I’m not saying about anybody else, but the impression I got was that if I didn’t do what people did, it could bring a bad light on somebody else."

At present peers whose homes are outside the capital can claim up to £174 a night tax-free for expenses incurred while staying in London.

Lord Clarke is a former trade unionist and became chairman of the Labour party in 1992, entered the Lords in 1998 and since 2001 (the earliest published expenses available) he has claimed £100,154 for overnight subsistence.

It appears that, by his own admission, on some occasions he had stayed in London for free at the homes of family and friends and since November has been staying in the central London apartment of another peer.

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