House of Lords Expenses

Lord Soley

I spoke yesterday on the report of the House Committee about the definition of a primary home for members of the House of Lords.

 I really do not like the principle underlying the question of expenses for second homes. I would have preferred if there was a simple allowance set at a higher rate for those living outside London. Definitions of second homes and primary homes will always be messy because people have very different lifestyles.

We are, however, currently stuck with the Senior Salaries Review Body (http://www.ome.uk.com/Senior_Salaries_Review_Body.aspx) recommendation. If, as I hope, we come eventually under IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk) we may get a more sustainable position. For further details see my speech yesterday: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldhansrd/text/100322-0004.htm#1003222000306.

20 comments for “House of Lords Expenses

  1. Sue
    23/03/2010 at 6:07 pm

    I don’t think that MPs or Lords should get a housing allowance period! They should have to do like the rest of us and pay it out of their OWN pockets! They chose to put themselves forward for the position that they are in, so let them pay for it themselves! I don’t have my boss paying my accommodation, it comes out of my salary, only after taxes of course which get first priority for the tax man and the council, but yet I have to pay for my MPs accomodation in the form of taxes that is wrong. You made your beds, now you can pay to lie in them!

    • lordnorton
      23/03/2010 at 8:37 pm

      Sue: It comes out of your salary. Precisely. We don’t have a salary, so how precisely can it come out of our salaries?

    • 24/03/2010 at 12:13 am

      But Sue, if you had a job that required you to work in two different parts of the country, you would receive an allowance. If this was removed from parliamentarians, it would mean only wealthy people putting themselves forwards – not a situation we should go back to.

      Until recent times, peers received nothing for attending, which is why someone had to be wealthy to be considered for a peerage: so that he (and his heirs thereafter) could afford to attend.

      • Croft
        24/03/2010 at 4:44 pm

        That’s true Jonathan but only to a point. We would have to argue and accept a series of arbitrary limits on the amounts we could claim and then have to prove it was ‘wholly and necessarily incurred’ to the revenue’s satisfaction. Otherwise we would be taxed on the benefit in kind. The new expenses regime still doesn’t achieve that standard.

  2. Carl.H
    23/03/2010 at 6:22 pm

    My Lord from your speech and the above I take it that you appear to side with those who would state all these reforms need more scrutiny ?

    So you will be lobbying your colleagues not to allow the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill into the wash-up ?

    “If, as I hope, we come eventually under IPSA ”

    Ahh My Lord has his place already under the chosen few of the next Government ? My Lord your present position is at threat from ALL the main parties. We can be sure it will be a trimmed down House.

  3. 23/03/2010 at 6:51 pm

    So far, expenses has been a one-way rant. Can I ask you if you believe the money you receive from Parliament (regardless of how you receive it) is sufficient to do your duties for which you were appointed?

    A deliberately worded question: over to you.

  4. Wolfgang
    23/03/2010 at 7:37 pm

    The real question is this.

    If there is no definition of a main home, there is no definition of a second home either.

    Why then has the Clerk been paying out millions without checking?

    Malfeasence in a public office?

    Perhaps we will never know. His report into his paying out the millions is secret, on his say so.

    Wolfie

  5. Sue
    24/03/2010 at 12:40 am

    Lord Norton: Do you mean to tell me that your position as a peer is a volunteer position? You receive no remuneration at all for being a peer? You stated in another post to me that peers can claim expenses. Is that not remuneration? For what expenses then are you permitted to claim reimbursement? It seems that the receipts go through in a lot of cases unscrutinsed, such as with the housing and changing primary and secondary residence depending on which place needs the most renovations/decorating in the year. You will have to forgive me for being very sceptical, however, I am one of those ‘uncommitted bloggers’ that Lord Stoley spoke about, yes, that’s right, I am a Home Educator! As well, I am not from this system, the parliamentary system in my country is similar to yours, patterned after yours, however, we don’t have a House of Lords, only the House of Commons in the city that Queen Victoria chose as our nation’s capital, and yes even our parliamentary buildings resemble Westminster. We have about 14 Queen’s representatives there too! Which is rather rich considering the relatively small population of the country!

    • lordnorton
      24/03/2010 at 9:51 am

      We receive allowances to ensure that we are not out of pocket for attending Parliament, but can only claim up to a limited maximum. (The amount for research and secretarial support is such that it is impossible to hire a full-time secretary or researcher, not that we have the space for them anyway.) The recent scandal has arisen because some peers appear to have been claiming overnight accommodation allowances even though their main home is in the capital. The problem has arisen as to what constitutes a main home and the House on Monday agreed a definition as to what constitutes a main home, in line with what I suspect is most people’s fairly common-sensical understanding of what is a main home.

  6. Gareth Howell
    24/03/2010 at 7:33 am

    Lord Soley,
    The seat of the City of London and Westminster, in the patronage of the Speaker of the house of Commons, until it necessarily became redundant(!), was brought about by a member of the PUBLIC claiming expenses because he has attended parliamentary meetings and contributed to them in abundance, and was therefore invited to claim for what he had done.

    I say this because, like your gentle self, I am acquainted with the last holder of the seat. I am sure you are also well aware that I was invited to claim expenses, in exactly the same way, in the 1990s after NOT taking the seat which was offered to me.

    I never did claim and I never have claimed expenses for parliamentary or council work, which is why I am in bad odour with the unions who can not understand why somebody should either be able to do such a thing without claiming, or want to.

    The Unions’ first campaigns were based upon the need for payment for MPs without other resources. they must have been pleased when they got there in the 1830s to find that they could claim for all sorts of other things too.

    Expenses, until the

    “relationship between the Courts and Parliament changed ”

    three years ago, have been a marvellous way of corrupting the corruptible,
    and that knows no party.

    The history of parliament is surely littered with such corrupt practices, so I don’t know why people make such a fuss about it.

    Why? there are even people who swear by FPTP!

  7. Carl.H
    24/03/2010 at 8:48 am

    My Noble Lord Soley, I must say speaking as ordinary citizen your speech in the House appears to say that you prefer no transparency on expenses and that you would it like it so no one could investigate.

    “that a lot of people in the media will be busy filling out their Freedom of Information Act requests right now because this report opens up a number of issues which allow people to be examined again.”

    Fear of examination…Yet the public are told time and again if you`ve nothing to hide you`ve nothing to fear.

    “this is the problem with trying to do things ourselves-we are opening up other avenues for the media to investigate.”

    On the present system “That worked for many years partly because the system was a bit more limited but also because there was not something called the Freedom of Information Act. It opens up huge areas for people to investigate and that is unlikely to stop. We need to ask the additional question: what else can you investigate as a result of the system you are passing today?

    My Noble Lord it appears you wish to be a public servant, taking public money but do not want the people who pay you to be able to see your accounts. Monies that are spent in and on Parliament should be accounted for and those accounts available freely. I don`t like Lord Sugar particularly but at least he has some, he`d no doubt have stood up and said investigate away, I`m kosher and worth every blinkin penny.

    People that try to hide from the public their public expenditure are not to be trusted. Whilst you`re hiding things people will divide up the total cost of the Lords by how many and state this is what you cost.

    My Lord the questions should not be about transparency, which is only fair it should be are you worth it ? I would state a lot of Lords are probably worth more than they get but then there are some who need to go.

  8. Sue
    24/03/2010 at 12:02 pm

    Jonathan: If I had a job that required me to work in two different parts of the country, I would probably get a basic expense allowance that would possibly cover the commute and meals on the road, but it certainly would not cover a second home! I DID have to relocate for a job and all I got was travel expenses, the rent I had to pay myself! Once I got to where I was going, that was it, I was on my own for paying my food and shelter and utilities. You’ll have to forgive me, but when someone earns copious amounts of money like the MPs do, I don’t think that I should be paying THEIR bills for porn, a second home, their telephone calls and they don’t distinguish between personal and business, they claim them all on their expenses, and look at Andrew McKay, from Bracknell, he and his MP wife claimed three houses between them. I’m sorry but they only lived in Bracknell, which is a one hour train journey from London Waterloo. They did not need a home in the capital, lots of regular people commute everyday to London by train or car and they manage. On their salaries they could have afforded the train tickets, and there is also the Green Line which is a coach company that offers very economical coach fares to London from Bracknell! Lots of people commute and lots of people do not have the luxury of being reimbursed for that commute. I have never been paid for my commuting fares! As for the Peers who are wealthy, they would presumably have ways and means of fund raising to support themselves. If they live quite far away, then perhaps hostel accommodation is the answer, it’s cheap and cheerful!

  9. lordnorton
    24/03/2010 at 12:51 pm

    Sue: You continue to fail to distinguish between MPs and peers and, as far as peers go, appear to limit your observations to those who are wealthy. What about those who don’t have a paid job outside? Or are you really suggesting that the House of Lords reverts to being solely the preserve of the wealthy?

    • Twm O'r Nant
      24/03/2010 at 1:14 pm

      “suggesting that the House of Lords reverts to being solely the preserve of the wealthy?”

      Or the Christian socialist.

  10. Sue
    24/03/2010 at 1:30 pm

    Lord Norton, I do not fail to grasp the difference between a Peer and an MP! What I am saying is ‘If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen!’ You chose that, whether you were appointed or you inherited your position, you had the option to decline the appointment or abdicate.

    Peers know that they will receive no remuneration in the form of a salary from this and they still choose to carry on anyway. If they have no other paid position then they will have to come up with another way of funding their lifestyle that still comes from their initiative and not a silver platter.

    If I want to put my child in music or dance lessons, I have to fund that myself and that would even be the case if my child were still in state school as not all schools are in a position to pay for music and dance lessons. Those schools that offer them, still charge the parents for them.

    There are ways of funding your lifestyle in the capital and very inventive ways as well, that are honest, above board and don’t involve the tax payers’ money. While we’re on the subject of tax payers’ money why not bring our troops home? That would save the state a lot of money!

  11. lordnorton
    24/03/2010 at 3:25 pm

    Sue: I’m sorry, but you appear to misunderstand completely the role of members of the Lords. You fund your daughter to take music or dance lessons in order to improve the position of your daughter. The work of the Lords is to improve the quality of legislation, in other words to deliver a service and not to benefit from one. In terms of your analogy, it would be the dance or music teacher doing the teaching on a voluntary basis and, in some cases, travelling long distances to do it!

    • Twm O'r Nant
      24/03/2010 at 5:17 pm

      “work of the Lords is to improve the quality of legislation,”

      Looking at the history of Marquis of Salisbury estate, I see that one parliamentary bill a good many years ago was for the purpose of exchanging one substantial estate for another, belonging to the Marquis.

      I guess improving the quality of the legislation in such a Bill would not be uppermost in the mind of Lord Norton today,
      but it needs to be said in support of Sue’s indignation that knowing intimately what the legislation is for example on housing development, gives a Peer an insight in to the potential development value of his estates, that he would not otherwise have.

      For some of the hereditary Peers, Parliament is worth getting elected to, for that purpose alone, and for improving the quality of the legislation too…..!

      The Stanstead Airport Bill or the Gatwick airport bill and so on and so forth, and even the M4 motorway Bill, or a Xcountry railtrack bill…….

  12. Sue
    24/03/2010 at 4:03 pm

    Lord Norton: I think we are talking around each other in circles! Someone asked a question earlier, what is a suitable amount for a Peer to carry out their duties? So please share that here with us, we’re curious, well maybe I shouldn’t speak for everyone else, so I’m curious. Politicians quite often use the tactic of evading the question when asked a direct question by changing the subject to something else.

    I was trying to say that if I want something, I have to work for it, to pay for it (re dance and music lessons). The Peers who are not wealthy obviously must do that too, however, I did read an article where a peer was complaining over not being able to buy first class train tickets on his expenses! He came across as thinking that was an outrage! Is that bad journalism, or is that how he really felt?

    Why is it then, if the Peers/Lords are the body that improves the quality of Legislation, that so many bad laws have made it onto the Statutory Books? Do you not have the power to stop a Bill in its tracks, or again do I misunderstand the British parliamentary system or am I inadvertently expressing my ignorance?

  13. Bedd Gelert
    25/03/2010 at 12:05 am

    Lord Norton, I think you will have to admit defeat with Sue, I’m afraid. I sympathise with the situation that the Lords are in, but I can see where Sue is coming from. I suspect that she is someone who has ‘played by the rules’ and has ‘lived within her means’ and now sees MPs enriching themselves and the bankers being rewarded for failure, and one can see why you are in the firing line as ‘collateral damage’.

    You probably have clean hands and are doing a lot of work for a reasonable amount of money. But even noble Lord Soley gets a bit of dosh from some ‘heathrow-related’ activity – so it is easy to see how a lack of sympathy for the work of the Lords can be engendered.

    It would also be interesting to know what you mean by ‘wealthy’. Banks now deal with the ‘mass affluent’ who have salaries of £60k or a similar amount in ‘net worth’.

    However I suspect you would not see such people as wealthy [indeed they probably don’t] because they are likely to have to ‘earn a living’ rather than just being in the Lords as a hobby, if I can put it that way.

  14. Twm O'r Nant
    25/03/2010 at 8:50 am

    ” You fund your daughter to take music or dance lessons in order to improve the position of your daughter. The work of the Lords is to improve the quality of legislation,”

    …and Noble Lord Norton’s “wash up” is really throwing the baby out with the washing up water!

    Ha! Ha! Ha!

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