CONSERVATIVE peer Lord Hanningfield should be suspended from the House of Lords for the remainder of the current parliament over his claims for daily allowances, the Lords privileges and conduct committee has recommended.
The former Essex County Council leader is facing suspension over his claims for allowances. The privileges committee said the peer, who was jailed in 2011 over his parliamentary expenses, should face the maximum sanction after he was found to have claimed the allowance for 11 days on which he did no parliamentary work.
The committee also recommended that he should repay the £3,300 which he had wrongly claimed. This case followed a newspaper investigation which found that Lord Hanningfield was claiming the daily allowance for peers of £300 while only spending short periods of time in parliament.
Following a complaint, the Lords commissioner for standards, ex-Hampshire chief constable Paul Kernaghan, carried out an inquiry focusing on 11 days in July 2013 when he spent less than 40 minutes in the parliamentary estate.
“Lord Hanningfield was unable to point to any specific work that he had undertaken on the 11 days covered by the commissioner’s investigation,” the committee said.
“In our view it is clear that the daily allowance should be claimed only on days when parliamentary work has been undertaken.”
In his report, Mr Kernaghan found that in making the incorrect claims, Lord Hanningfield “failed to act on his personal honour”.
The committee’s report will be considered by the full House of Lords today when peers will decide whether to accept its recommendations.
In a statement following the release of the report, Lord Hanningfield said he regarded his peer’s allowances as a “de facto salary” which earned him around £30,000 a year, and was unaware that what he was doing was wrong. He made clear he intends to return to the Lords after his suspension.
Lord Hanningfield said: “Since my release from prison and return to the House, I have had but one goal in mind, and that is to return to work and continue to serve the taxpayer, something I believe I have tried my very best to do since I became a peer in 1998.
“I regret that my mistakes have ultimately resulted in me being suspended from the House but would like to assure the people and organisations that I was in the process of helping that I will continue with the work that I have started, outside the Lords, to ensure that our efforts will not have been wasted upon my return.”
Labour MP John Mann called on the government to introduce legislation in next month’s Queen’s Speech to automatically expel anyone committing a criminal offence from the Lords.
The Bassetlaw MP said: “A one-year ban is hopelessly inadequate. Lord Hanningfield should be banned for life.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s hard to imagine what else Lord Hanningfield could do to be thrown out of the House of Lords for good.”