House of Lords branded 'national embarrassment' as expenses soar by almost a third

23 February 2020, 15:14

Peers paid themselves almost a third more money last year compared to the previous 12 months
Peers paid themselves almost a third more money last year compared to the previous 12 months. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

House of Lords peers have been branded "a national embarrassment" after it was reported that their expenses soared by almost a third last year.

The rising cost of expenses and daily parliamentary allowances saw 31 peers claiming more money than an MP's standard salary, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

They claimed a total of £23 million in the year up to March 2019, an increase of 29 per cent on the previous 12 months.

It equated out to an average tax-free payment of £30,827 per peer, which is more than the median salary of UK workers.

More than 110 members claimed in excess of £1 million, despite making no written or spoken contributions to the chamber during the 12-month period.

Peers claimed £23 million in expenses between 2018 and 2019
Peers claimed £23 million in expenses between 2018 and 2019. Picture: PA

However, a spokesman defended the House by putting the increase in costs down to the fact that members had more sitting days.

"The increase in the costs of House of Lords allowances in the 2018/19 financial year is largely due to a 25% increase in the number of days that the House sat, rising from 129 in 2017/18 to 161 in 2018/19," he said.

"As members of the Lords can generally only claim allowances for days they attend the House any increase in sitting days is likely to produce an increase in the cost of member's allowances."

He added that the House sat on fewer occasions in 2017/18 because of the general election, and a greater number of days over the following 12 months due to Brexit.

The spokesman described the House as a "busy and effective revising chamber which does an important job scrutinising legislation and holding the government to account."

The average tax-free payment was more than £30,000 - above the median salary of a UK worker
The average tax-free payment was more than £30,000 - above the median salary of a UK worker. Picture: PA

He said: "In the period covered by the Sunday Times article it (the House) made 2,513 changes to legislation; members tabled 8,072 written questions and 153 reports were produced by committees."

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard branded the House of Lords "a national embarrassment" and called for it to be abolished.

He said: "The House of Lords has absolutely no place in a modern democracy - allowing the Westminster parties to reward selfish donors, cronies and politicians rejected by the voters completely erodes trust in our politics.

"Allowing peers to profit from their status, without any accountability to the taxpayers who pay for them to live the high-life, is completely undemocratic."

Willie Sullivan, a senior director at the Electoral Reform Society, branded the Lords "a rolling expenses scandal."

He told the newspaper: "Unelected Lords are taking advantage of the lack of scrutiny in the upper chamber.

"The Lords is a rolling expenses scandal - and we'll see this year after year unless there is reform."

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