British lord defends 'clocking in' practice at parliament

17th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

A member of the British parliament's upper house, the House of Lords, defended "clocking in" for less than 40 minutes to get his attendance allowance, claiming Tuesday that 50 others were also doing it.

Paul White, now Lord Hanningfield -- who was jailed in 2011 for expenses fraud -- claimed it was standard practice.

There are currently 779 peers, or members of the unelected House of Lords. They serve for life.

They are unpaid, but can claim a tax-free £300 ($490, 355-euro) daily attendance allowance, "only if they attend a sitting of the house and/or committee proceedings".

The Daily Mirror newspaper said that on 11 of the 19 days it monitored Hanningfield in July, he travelled to parliament but spent less than 40 minutes there before returning home.

He claimed £6,171 in allowances and travel expenses for the month. There is no suggestion however that he broke any law.

"Lots of peers go in and check in for their expenses, but they are using their expenses for a lot of things -- entertaining, meeting people, employing people," he told the Mirror.

"I have to live, don't I? I don't do anything else. How do you think I am going to eat, how am I going to pay my electricity bills?"

He said his Lords income would be about £30,000 per year, with £18,000 of that going to staff.

"I can name 50 that do it. I see the same people go in and out as I do," he said.

The Mirror said that between April 2012 and July 2013 he claimed £51,300 in attendance allowances despite making no speeches in the chamber.

"Being a lord is not just going in the House of Lords. It's the post you have. I have 15 letters a day, I have all sorts of things like that," Hanningfield said.

The House of Lords dates back to the 14th century and used to be the hereditary preserve of the nobility.

Reform efforts regularly stumble as members of parliament in the lower house, the House of Commons, struggle to agree on the composition of a reformed Lords and what it should be for.

Hanningfield served nine weeks of a nine-month sentence in 2011 for falsely claiming £28,000 in parliamentary expenses.

© 2013 AFP

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