House of Lords expenses reach £23m a year
The House of Lords is facing criticism after it was revealed peers’ expense claims have risen by 29 per cent in a year, taking the total bill to £23m.
According to The Sunday Times, the average tax-free bill by members of the upper chamber was around £31,000, with 31 claiming over £77,000.
But the Lords defended its costs, claiming the rise is due to an increase in the number of days the House sat.
The news comes as its size is set to rise to 834, the largest number of peers in two decades.
They are also set to get a pay rise in March of 3.1 per cent, taking their daily attendance allowance to £323.
SNP MP Kirsten Oswald criticised the decision in the Commons last week, pointing out the daily rate was the same as the monthly payout for Universal Credit claimants.
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 £2bn 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.
More than 110 peers did not make any spoken or written contribution to the House during the year to March, it was found, but claimed a total of more than £1m.
A spokesperson for the House of Lords said: “The increase in the costs of House of Lords allowances in the 2018/19 financial year is largely due to a 25 per cent increase in the number of days that the House sat, rising from 129 in 2017/18 to 161 in 2018/19.
“As Members of the Lords can generally only claim allowances for days they attend the House any increase in sitting days is likely to produce an increase in the cost of Member’s allowances.”
They also defended the upper chamber’s record, adding: “The House of Lords is a busy and effective revising chamber which does an important job scrutinising legislation and holding the Government to account.
“In the period covered by the Sunday Times article it made 2,513 changes to legislation; members tabled 8,072 written questions and 153 reports were produced by committee."