Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Peers to face expenses clampdown

By James Landale
Deputy political editor, BBC News

House of Lords
Peers can currently claim for office and subsistence costs

Members of the House of Lords are to have their expenses cut as part of planned reforms to Parliament's system of allowances, the BBC has learnt.

The amount that peers can claim for overnight accommodation will be reduced and, for the first time, they will have to provide receipts in order to claim.

The changes are part of reforms to be recommended soon by the independent Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB).

It launched a review after claims some peers abuse the overnight allowance.

Peers, who do not receive a salary, can claim a flat rate of £174 for overnight accommodation if their main home is outside greater London.

But that amount is set to drop to a maximum of about £140 - although the precise figure has yet to be agreed.

Consistency sought

Sources in the House of Lords say the SSRB is planning to wait until Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, publishes his reforms of MPs' expenses on 4 November before they finalise their plans for the Lords.

It is understood the SSRB want their proposals for the Lords to dovetail as much as possible with the Kelly recommendations for the Commons.

Under the SSRB's plans, peers will be able to claim for hotel bills or rent for a small flat. But they will not be able to claim for mortgage costs on a property they own.

Nor will they be able to claim for the costs of maintaining a house in London which they own already.

Peers can currently claim £75 a day for office and secretarial costs and £86.50 a day for subsistence costs such as meals and taxis. Lords' sources say the SSRB is planning to merge these two allowances into one.

Rebuked

This would provide a flat rate of about £170 a day for all peers who attend the Lords.

The SSRB investigation was prompted after it emerged that several peers appeared to have abused the overnight accommodation allowance.

The abuses included claiming the allowance without actually staying regularly at the property they designated as their main home outside London or claiming while commuting from property just outside London.

Meanwhile, former Home Office minister Tony McNulty is to be rebuked for his expenses claims - following an investigation by the parliamentary standards watchdog - and asked to repay £13,000, the BBC understands.

He was investigated for claiming the second home allowance for a property in which his parents lived. The Harrow property was eight miles away from his main central London home.

Mr McNulty, who insists he did not break the rules, is likely to be asked to apologise to Parliament.



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