Saturday, 13 March 2010
'Lords place themselves beyond reach of the law' (The Times) - What would Oliver Cromwell say?
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"Peers who have claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds for homes they rarely visit will escape prosecution through a House of Lords loophole.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, denounced the change, which was made last month. It allows peers to designate as their main home a property they visit no more than once a month — a ruling Mr Starmer said caused him “very real difficulty”.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced yesterday that it could not bring criminal charges against Baroness Uddin, a Labour peer who received more than £100,000 in allowances by claiming that her main residence was outside London. Her family home is in Wapping, East London, where she has lived for more than a decade.
Mr Starmer told The Times: “You could not have a looser definition. It would be nigh on impossible to find a neighbour who could act as a witness and who could say that a peer had not once stayed at a house — short of mounting 24-hour surveillance.”
The Labour peer and donor Lord Paul revealed this week that he would not be prosecuted either. He was investigated by police after he admitted that he never slept in the property outside London he called his main home.
Baroness Uddin and Lord Paul will now be investigated by an internal Lords committee. The expenses of up to 20 peers have been investigated internally in the past 18 months.
There were calls last night for the House of Lords to end self-regulation, following the lead set by MPs. Peers resisted attempts to impose external regulation by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Peers whose “main homes” are outside the M25 are entitled to claim a daily rate of £174 to help them with accommodation in London while they are attending the House of Lords.
But a ruling last November by Michael Pownall, the Clerk of Parliaments, found: “Ultimately it is up to Members to designate an address as their main residence as they see fit.”
Last month he added that the Lords’ House Committee believed a “main residence” might only need to be visited by a peer once a month.
Three Labour MPs and a Tory peer appeared in court on Thursday to face charges of false accounting."
Lady Uddin said: “I am relieved that this ordeal has finally come to an end. I only wish now to say thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this very difficult time.”"
My 'comment' is as follows:
"They don't like all this in the streets and on the doorsteps of South East Cambridgeshire, where I am the independent candidate. The name of Oliver Cromwell was always well-known round here, especially at Ely, where he lived. His name resonates readily nowadays and is all too relevant."