Peers' expenses

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The scandal over MPs' second home allowances has been followed by a series of Sunday Times articles alleging that some peers have been abusing their own expenses system - an affair that's still rumbling on.

The newspaper has named more than a dozen peers. It accused some of pocketing tens of thousands of pounds by either declaring empty properties as their main homes or by claiming allowances despite having paid off their mortgages.

And it alleged that some peers had been 'popping into' the Lords chamber briefly to claim the daily subsistence allowance but spending very little time on parliamentary business.

Some of the claims are being investigated by the House of Lords authorities. Others have been passed on to the police. And while inquiries continue, the Senior Salaries Review Body has unveiled plans for a big shake-up of Lords' allowances in a move designed to "restore public confidence" in the funding of the Upper House.

The SSRB report, commissioned by the Prime Minister, recommends that the overnight allowance claimed by peers whose main home is outside Greater London should be cut from £174 to £140.

It also wants peers to declare which is their "principal residence" and to explain why they are making the declaration - current rules provide no definition of "main home".

The report wants mortgage interest relief to be phased out over five years. And it is recommending that peers, who are not paid - apart from some who are ministers, should receive a "daily attendance fee" of £200 to replace their current subsistence and office allowances worth up to £161.

And one other proposed change: peers would, for the first time, have to submit receipts for travel and overnight accommodation.

The Government says it wants the changes to be introduced by April 2010. The report on peers' allowances, and a promise of new laws to discipline peers guilty of misconduct, followed a Lords vote to suspend two Labour peers, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn, for six months over the so-called "cash for influence affair".

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