Page last updated at 22:38 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Peers criticise expenses reforms

Lords expenses reform debate: from BBC Democracy Live

Peers have criticised some of the proposed reforms to their expenses - drawn up after claims some were abusing their overnight allowance.

Plans to cut the £174-a-night allowance to £140 but increase daily attendance fees to £200 were debated in the Lords.

One peer described the proposals, which also include ending claims for mortgage interest and first-class travel by spouses, as an "insult".

Peers agreed without a vote to back the plans in principle, but not the detail.

The review into peers' expenses by the Senior Salaries Review Body suggested daily allowances for office costs and food, worth up to £161.50, be replaced by a £200 attendance fee.

Running costs

However it suggested peers should have to do more to prove their attendance, that mortgage interest claims on second homes be phased out and overnight claims be restricted to rent and running costs.

In a debate on the SSRB report on Monday, the Conservative leader in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, said he backed the report in principle.

There will be many peers who rent one-bedroom flats who will be able to claim more than those of us who own houses
Lord Crickhowell

But he said phasing out mortgage payments could encourage peers to sell up and move into rented accommodation, saying: "I fear that will happen and I shudder at the public reaction."

Conservative former cabinet minister Lord Crickhowell warned peers against "putting our heads in a noose".

It was "hugely important younger peers are able to serve without hardship or the possession of large personal wealth", he said.

"There will be many peers who rent one-bedroom flats who will be able to claim more than those of us who own houses."

'Flaws'

Labour peer Lord Peston said the report proposed to replace "a simple system that works with a system that is extremely complicated" and "reduces the allowances available to many noble Lords".

Crossbencher Lord Palmer added: "I think this report is an insult to those of us who have dedicated our lives to working here."

I don't regard myself as being entitled to the use of public money unless it is clear and accountable and verifiable
Baroness Manningham-Buller

Tory peer Lord Howe said many "flaws" could be dealt with by the "ad hoc" committee being established to look at how a new regime could be established.

But the Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, Lord McNally, said: "It would be disastrous to allow it to be thought that by setting up this committee we were giving ourselves some wiggle room on the main recommendations of the report."

He said the new £140 limit on overnight allowances and £200 daily allowance should be seen as the "immovable iron polls" of the report.

Crossbencher Baroness Manningham-Buller said allegations that expenses had been abused had "eroded trust, not only in the House of Commons, but also here".

"If we are to regain that [trust], I think we have no option but to accept the recommendations in broad terms."

She added: "I don't regard myself as being entitled to the use of public money unless it is clear and accountable and verifiable."

Peers agreed to back the "architecture and principles" of the report without a vote, but Lords leader Baroness Royall said they could make changes to the details, including the proposed levels of daily allowances.

She added: "The government agrees with the figures but it is for the House to take its own decision."



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SEE ALSO
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Media 'bullied MPs' on expenses
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Peers to get 200 attendance fee
26 Nov 09 |  UK Politics
Peers to face expenses clampdown
29 Oct 09 |  UK Politics
Probe into Labour peer's claims
12 Oct 09 |  UK Politics

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