Sunday, 13 November 2011

The disgraced peer Baroness Uddin will be allowed to return to her seat in the House of Lords even though she has not paid back a penny of the £125,000 she was fined for cheating on her expenses.

The leaders of the Lords have accepted that they do not have the power to bar Uddin, whose 18-month suspension ends in April.

The decision comes in spite of a demand this month by an influential Lords subcommittee chaired by Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, that Uddin should not be allowed to return until she has paid the fine.

Uddin says she cannot repay the money, even though she and her husband have three properties, including the £155,000 Kent flat on which she falsely claimed the £125,000.

The Lords authorities, however, say that to make her return conditional on repayment would be illegal.

A ruling by the committee for privileges and conduct in the Lords states that such an arrangement could amount to a permanent exclusion and would infringe her right as a peer to be called to the house by the Queen at the start of a new parliament.

The move has angered peers, including Lord Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat who campaigns for reform of the Lords.

“It can’t be right to let a disgraced peer back into parliament before they have repaid their bogus expenses,” Oakeshott said. “If you do not pay your fines you go to prison.” This is a view shared by the subcommittee on Lords’ conduct, which investigated Uddin last year after The Sunday Times revealed that she was falsely claiming expenses by saying that an empty flat in Maidstone was her main home.

The subcommittee, which is chaired by Manningham-Buller and includes Lord Irvine, the former lord chancellor, warned in its report this month: “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.”

The reference to allowances has a particular significance for Uddin, Britain’s first female Muslim peer, who served on the Labour benches.

It is thought she wants to use her peers’ tax-free attendance allowance of £300 a day gradually to pay back her debts. As a frequent attender she could, in theory, raise the £125,000 in three years.

Sources in the Lords say the house authorities believe the public will take a dim view of an errant peer repaying the taxpayers with taxpayers’ own money. It is understood that while Uddin will be permitted to return to parliament in the spring, new measures may be introduced to prevent her claiming allowances until she settles her debt.

Her colleagues in the Lords believe she possesses assets that could be sold to meet the repayments. Uddin’s main home is in Wapping, east London. She pays a reduced rent as it is a housing association property intended for people on low incomes.

She still owns the flat in Maidstone, which is being advertised for let for £695 a month. Her husband, Komar, owns a mansion in the town of Jawa Bazar in Bangladesh. Sources say the home, which is decorated with Italian marble, was built after Uddin was made a Labour working peer in 1998. The house cost about £140,000.
Source: Sunday Times (£)


Johnny Rottenborough said...

For the definitive statement on Muslims in Parliament, please welcome Baroness Warsi:

‘[He] says we need more Muslim MPs, more Muslims in the House of Lords. I would actually disagree with that, because one of the lessons we have learnt in the last five years in politics is that Muslims that go to parliament don’t have any morals or principles.’

Surgeon said...

Why is it that a person from the House of Lords is exempt from being prosecuted and fired from his/her job for committing a criminal act and yet the EDL are arrested for just standing on the street? Are thieves from the House of Lords considered above the law. Thank heaven I leave in a more civilised country (Australia). Good luck British people!

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

She's not exempt from prosecution. She was being prosecuted at one stage till they dropped it because of a technicality. Being a member of the House of Lords isn't really considered a job, so she can't easily be dismissed from it.

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