UK Politics

Peer Uddin may return to Lords despite owing expenses

Baroness Uddin
Image caption Baroness Uddin who wrongly claimed £125,000 in expenses

Suspended Labour peer Baroness Uddin is set to be allowed back into the House of Lords without repaying the £125,000 she owes in wrongly claimed expenses.

It is understood she claims she cannot afford to make the repayments demanded.

A House of Lords committee banned her from the Lords in October last year until April 2012.

When the ban ends she can return to the House of Lords and claim expenses again without having repaid the money she was told to by the committee.

The decision to allow peers to return even if they have not repaid money owed comes despite a warning it risks bringing the Lords "into further disrepute".

A House of Lords spokeswoman says allowing peers to return after being found guilty of wrongly claiming expenses and forcing them to repay what they owe are "separate issues".

"We have not received a payment from Baroness Uddin, but we are in dialogue with her," she added.

Baroness Uddin was criticised for designating a house owned by her brother in Essex as her "main home" for four years - and for a further five years saying her main home was a flat in Maidstone, Kent.

During that period her family home was a three-bedroom house in Wapping, east London, rented from a Housing Association.

The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee said last year that the claims for these two homes were "made wrongly and in bad faith" and called for £125,349.10 to be repaid.

But the House of Lords has no effective powers to force a peer to repay expenses or to maintain a ban until money is repaid.

"Infringe her right"

The Lords can only issue a ban until the end of a session of parliament and the present parliament is due to end next April.

Banning Baroness Uddin beyond then would infringe her right to attend parliament which is conferred by the Queen.

Baroness Uddin will also be able to start claiming expenses again of up to £300 a day from next Easter.

That was an issue highlighted by the Lords standards and conduct sub-committee headed by the former head of MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller.

In a report earlier this month it warned: "We do not consider that a Member should be able to return to the service of the House while repayment of amounts which were wrongfully claimed is still due.

"This risks bringing the House into further disrepute, especially if the Member concerned is then able to claim further attendance allowances from the public purse".

House of Lords sources say Baroness Uddin's case is an unprecedented one and there may be moves to curtail the expenses she can claim until the outstanding cash she owes is repaid.

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