Baroness suspended for social home claims
A Labour baroness who claimed second home allowances for a housing association property in London is to be suspended from Parliament.
Baroness Uddin is one of three peers who will be suspended after an inquiry found that they had broken expenses rules and wrongly claimed thousands of pounds. She has been ordered to pay back £125,000.
Baroness Uddin, a tenant of Spitalfields Housing Association in Wapping, claimed £29,675 in overnight subsistence allowances in 2007/08 for stays at the London property. She named her main residence as a flat in Maidstone, Kent.
But she reportedly lived in her social home as her main place of residence. Neighbours of her flat in Maidstone said it was unoccupied.
Although her expenses claim for 2007/08 was the first in which she gave any entry for the location of her main residence, Baroness Uddin has been claiming between £15,000 and £24,000 for overnight subsistence since 2001 – making her one of the highest claimants of this expense every year.
Only two other peers have ever been suspended from Parliament, and the penalties are the most stringent ever imposed. There will be a vote on Thursday, which is expected to ratify the sanctions.
A Labour spokesperson said that Baroness Uddin could face ‘further disciplinary action’.
Baroness Uddin escaped police prosecution when the Lords rewrote expenses rules earlier this year to clarify that members could designate a property as their primary residence even if they only visited once a month.
An investigation by the Lords sub-committee on members’ interests, chaired by the former head of MI5 Lady Manningham-Buller, has been published by the House of Lords standards and privileges committee along with recommended sanctions.
Baroness Uddin faces an 18 month suspension, reduced from three years on appeal.
Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Lords, said: ‘I was shocked and appalled by these cases. There was a clear and serious abuse of taxpayers’ money. The penalties recommended would be the toughest handed out by the House of Lords.’
He added that the rules that allowed the scandal had been scrapped so ‘bogus’ claims could no longer be made.