Clegg to clamp down on Lib Dem Lords' allowances

by Stephen Tall on May 27, 2009

Mea culpa, gentle reader, this is definitely not breaking news… After a bank holiday of back-breaking gardening and a Tuesday of work-fuelled meetings (my colleagues can add their own excuses), LDV failed to bring you news of Nick Clegg’s plans to clamp down on allowances claimed by members of the House of Lords – an issue of more-than-passing-interest to Lib Dems following the resignation of party chief executive Lord (Chris) Rennard amid allegations that he had profited personally from the scheme by designating his Eastbourne flat (rather than his London house) as his main residence.

This from Sunday night’s Guardian website:

Nick Clegg intensified pressure for reform of Lords’ allowances today when he said peers from his party would change the way they claim under the current system, which he described as “wholly unsatisfactory”. The Liberal Democrat leader said the peers would not only have to abide by the letter of the rules relating to the overnight allowance, but by their spirit as well. He made his announcement as the Sunday Times claimed that at least a dozen peers were claiming the allowance – worth up to £174 a night for peers who say their main home is outside London – even though they owned property in the capital where their mortgages had been paid off. …

Lib Dem peers are among those who appear to have benefited most from the current system. Lord Razzall and his partner, Baroness Bonham-Carter, claimed almost £60,000 a year for overnight stays in London, and Lord Thomas of Gresford and his wife, Baroness Walmsley, claimed almost £40,000. There was no suggestion that either couple had broken the rules.

However, Clegg said the rules were designed for a different era. “You’ve got a system that was designed to give allowances to wealthy peers who had great piles, feudal estates in the country, and who drifted into London from time to time into this 19th-century club to occasionally vote,” he said. “You have now got a number of peers, including Liberal Democrats, who work extremely hard … but unlike MPs they are not paid a penny, so the allowance system has in effect become a replacement for a salary.” There were also allegations that many peers were exploiting the system by designating holiday homes as their main residence.

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Arf! I saw the headline and assumed it was just more on Friday’s Fed Exec announcement of the Lords review 🙁

by Alix Mortimer on May 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm. Reply #

I think they should have the whip withdraw.

by John on May 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm. Reply #

>“You’ve got a system that was designed to give allowances to wealthy peers who had great piles, feudal estates in the country, and who drifted into London from time to time into this 19th-century club to occasionally vote,”

That section doesn’t look entirely convincing to me.

Surely it was heavily reasessed entirely at least in the 1950s for Life Peers, and agreed to be appropriate?

by Matt Wardman on May 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm. Reply #

So, it would appear that there are a whole herd of elephants in the room, Stephen – not all LibDems. It tends to put the ‘crack papering over’ a little into perspective.

by Paul Walter on May 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm. Reply #

The Lord – or rather the Clerk of the Parliaments – may know when the Lords expenses system was last reassessed; but the system as it stands, and not just the overnight allowance, is a mess and has been a mess for at least ten years. There are a whole herd of elephants in this mire; some through trying to be painstakingly careful to observe the letter and intention of the rules, some through giving themselves the benefit of the doubt. The devil of it is that you can rarely distinguish the one sort of elephant from the other.

by David Heigham on May 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm. Reply #

If it’s been so bad for so long, why are we only saying we will make our Peers do something different now?

by Hywel on May 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm. Reply #

“If it’s been so bad for so long, why are we only saying we will make our Peers do something different now?”

In particular, I see the double overnight subsistence claims by the two Lib Dem couples were highlighted by the Daily Mail five months ago:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1099159/Revealed-Perk-lets-Lords-couples-claim-living-allowance-twice-share-home.html

by Anonymous1 on May 27, 2009 at 6:02 pm. Reply #

Once we see how the expenses system works in the House of Lords, it becomes clear that Chris Rennard did nothing wrong, and is exonerated completely. Egg on the faces of all the Tory trolls who have infested this site in recent weeks.

The system is, of course, entirely rotten, and needs changhing now. It is a cutomary rule that peers may treat second homes as their main home in order to maximise their allowances in liew of a salary. Well, I don’t like customary rules. We need an explicit code that is followed to the letter. Then there can be no argument about itand no innuendoes that the trolls can spin.

But the q

by Sesenco on May 28, 2009 at 7:38 am. Reply #

I have been prematurely posted yet again!!

The question remains. If peers are to be paid nothing, or next to nothing, how can we ensure that people not swimming in money can serve in the Lords?

by Sesenco on May 28, 2009 at 7:41 am. Reply #

Sesenco:
“Once we see how the expenses system works in the House of Lords, it becomes clear that Chris Rennard did nothing wrong, and is exonerated completely.”

As you know, the allegation is that Rennard falsely claimed that his main residence was outside Greater London in order to claim overnight subsistence allowance.

The only way in which it can become “clear that he did nothing wrong” is if it becomes clear that his main residence is, in fact, in Eastbourne (or elsewhere outside Greater London, if he has other property we don’t know about). If that has become clear, I must have missed it.

As you also know, in nearly three weeks since the News of the World allegations were published, Rennard has not disputed their factual accuracy.

by Anonymous1 on May 28, 2009 at 7:47 am. Reply #

You start your trolling early, Anonymous1. And you kick off true to form. You ignore completely what the article actually says. It is a customary rule in the House of Lords that peers may claim expenses on the basis of treating a second home as a main residence. The justification being that peers don’t get paid a salary. Now go and ask a “Screws” journalist (they’re usually a bit hungover at this time of morning) what to say next.

by Sesenco on May 28, 2009 at 7:53 am. Reply #

“You ignore completely what the article actually says. It is a customary rule in the House of Lords that peers may claim expenses on the basis of treating a second home as a main residence.”

But of course, it doesn’t say that at all. It says many peers are alleged to be exploiting the system “by designating holiday homes as their main residence”.

Many ordinary people exploit the benefits system by making false claims. That doesn’t mean it’s a “customary rule” that they’re allowed to do so.

And regarding this nonsense you keep spouting about “Tory trolls”, I really think that the kind of stuff you post here defending the abuse of parliamentary allowances does a hundred times more damage to the party than a whole team of trolls working in unison.

by Anonymous1 on May 28, 2009 at 8:05 am. Reply #

Anonymous1, you are a relentlessly determined troll who has spent the last three weeks hounding an innocent man out of his job behind the mask of anonymity.

Those who think you are trolling purely for the entertainment value should know that there is method in your madness. You are now claiming that people are not interested in constitutional reform, only in what the US military-industrial-petro-chemical complex has manipulated them into believing (as though you would be privy to peoples’ innermost thoughts). Of course, the last thing you want is constitutional reform, because that would prevent your party winning an absolute majority. Your mask is slowly slipping!

Your irresponsible hyping of the BNP is an indication of the depths to which you will sink to do down the Liberal Democrats.

by Sesenco on May 28, 2009 at 10:11 am. Reply #

Sesenco

“Anonymous1, you are a relentlessly determined troll who has spent the last three weeks hounding an innocent man out of his job behind the mask of anonymity.”

You really ought to get a grip on yourself and think about what you are saying.

The allegations that Rennard made a false statement in order to claim public money are – if I understand correctly – being investigated by the party at the moment.

We do not yet know the result of that investigation (though of course we do know that in Rennard’s statements to the press he has not disputed the factual accuracy of the News of the World report).

It is foolish of you to describe him as an “innocent man” without knowing the result of that investigation, just as it was foolish of you to accuse the News of the World of having printed a “libel”, when in fact you didn’t know whether what they had printed was true.

As for the rest of the hysterical abuse you direct at me, of course it only demonstrates the poverty of your own arguments. But I will say that to portray someone with whom you disagree as somehow supporting the BNP is one of the dirtiest political tactics imaginable. And it is notable that you are the second person here who has recently dragged the discussion into the gutter by doing this.

by Anonymous1 on May 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm. Reply #

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