Anger in Scotland over the latest Lords expenses revelations

By staff writers
December 19, 2013

Newspaper revelations that Westminster peers regularly 'clock on' at the House of Lords to claim a daily allowance of £300, even though they only spend 'minutes' in the building, has angered a Scottish MP.

The claims that up to 50 peers regard this as normal practice illustrates that the problem is a systemic one, says the SNP's Angus MacNeil.

Criticism has also been expressed by other opposition parties, and some Conservatives have called for change too.

“Anyone in the real world who expected to be paid a full day’s salary for turning up for less than an hour would be out on their ear – but in the House of Lords we are told that 'nobody has broken any rules'," he said in response to reports in the Daily Mirror and on the BBC.

“The House of Lords is nothing less than an affront to democracy, stuffed to the gunnels with over 800 unelected peers, amongst them convicted criminals and men with very big cheque books – whom we can do nothing to get rid of. Only the People’s National Congress in China is a bigger legislative chamber, which is as ludicrous as it is expensive," said Mr MacNeil.

"One of the great benefits of independence is that Scottish taxpayers will no longer have to spend £50 million funding the undemocratic Westminster system," he added. “Scotland has had enough of this ridiculous gravy train of a chamber – and to add insult to injury, Lord Wallace recently let slip that Scottish Lords were hoping to keep their seats in the unelected House after a Yes vote."

Commenting on the Lord Hanningfield expenses scandal and the Lords Standards committee reports recommending a further two peers be suspended, Alexandra Runswick, Director of UK-wide reform group Unlock Democracy said: "This week, two Lords will be suspended for lobbying for cash. Another has been caught 'clocking in and out' to claim his expenses. We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. How many others will be judged to have acted 'within the rules'?

"When MPs’ expenses were exposed, the public had the opportunity to vote out the worst offenders, and they used it. These abuses have continued with impunity in the Lords because unelected peers are totally unaccountable to the public. Even Lords who are convicted of serious offences have been allowed to go straight back into Parliament. The only way the culture of the Lords will change is when voters, not party leaders, decide who is fit to sit in the second chamber."

In Scotland, those on both sides of the independence debate have expressed concern at the Lords abuses.

Some peers work very hard to ensure that the second chamber is an effective revising chamber, and the Lords is acknowledged to have provided tough scrutiny on welfare and other issues.

But there is widespread acceptance of the need for democratic reform, along with acknowledgement that it has frequently and consistently been thwarted at Westminster.

[Ekk/3]

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