House of Lords Scandals

The United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal was a major political scandal that emerged in 2009, concerning expenses claims made by members of the British Parliament in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords over the previous years. The disclosure of widespread misuse of allowances and expenses permitted to Members of Parliament (MPs) aroused widespread anger among the UK public and resulted in a large number of resignations, sackings, de-selections and retirement announcements together with public apologies and the repayment of expenses. Several members or former members of both the House of Commons, and members of the House of Lords, were prosecuted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

A February 2008 Freedom of Information Act request for the release of details of MPs' expenses claims was allowed by an Information Tribunal but challenged by the House of Commons Authorities on the grounds that it was "unlawfully intrusive". In May 2008 the High Court (England and Wales) ruled in favour of releasing the information. In April 2009 the House of Commons authorities announced that publication of expenses, with certain information deemed "sensitive" removed, would be made in July 2009. But before this could take place the expenses records and documentation were leaked to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which began publishing details in daily instalments from 8 May 2009. These disclosures dominated the British media for weeks. On 18 June 2009 the details of all MPs' expenses and allowance claims approved from 2004 to 2008 were published on the official Parliament website with detail such as addresses, claims that were not approved for payment and correspondence between MPs and the parliamentary fees office removed, bringing further accusations of unnecessary secrecy and allegations that this might have prevented serious abuses from being disclosed.

A nice little earner

A Labour peer claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting last year, despite never speaking or asking any written questions. The former trade union general secretary David Brookman was among dozens of other lords and baronesses who never took part in a single debate, while almost a third of the 800 peers barely participated in parliamentary business over a 12-month period despite costing almost £3.2m in allowances. Eighty-eight peers – about one in nine - never spoke, held a government post or participated in a committee at all.

  • Forty-six peers did not register a single vote, including on Brexit, sit on a committee or hold a post. One peer claimed £25,000 without voting, while another claimed £41,000 but only voted once.

  • More than 270 peers claimed more than £40,000 in allowances, with two claiming more than £70,000.

  • The former Lords speaker Frances D’Souza, a long-term advocate of reform, said the findings corroborated “what everyone suspects is going on”, and that a minority of peers risked discrediting the hard work of their colleagues.

“There’s clearly a need to reduce numbers,” Lady D’Souza said, adding that the research “clearly shows there are people who are attending the House of Lords who are not contributing, and therefore they are simply redundant”.

The steel company magnate Swraj Paul attended on 157 days and claimed more than £47,000 of allowances, but only spoke once. He did not serve on a committee, though has done in the past.

The Sunday Times’ analysis found one peer, Lord Cunningham, claimed £79,000 last year, while making just 17 spoken contributions in the House. And Lord Paul claimed £48,000 in expenses despite his £2billion family fortune, and spoke only once in the chamber.

Millionaire Lord Bhatia, who has previously been suspended from the House over expense claims, cashed in £44,530 in expenses after turning up 149 out of a possible 161 days — yet did not address the House or sit on a committee.