Telegraph: “Scotland Yard is investigating Lord Hanningfield”




From tonight’s Daily Telegraph:

Lord Hanningfield, a frontbencher in the House of Lords, is being investigated over whether he was returning to his home in Essex while claiming ?overnight allowances? for staying in London.

The peer is also the leader of Essex County Council and has a full-time chauffeur provided by the local authority at taxpayers? expense. Records held by the Lords authorities show that the 68-year-old life peer claimed ?17,120 for staying in London for the year ended March 2008, the last year for which figures are available.

He lives in West Hanning?field, near Chelmsford. Detectives want to establish whether he stayed in London on the days he claimed to have done, and not at his home.

Lord Hanningfield is one of three peers and two MPs being investigated by the police in the wake of the parliamentary expenses scandal, The Telegraph has learned. The others are Lord Clarke of Hampstead, a former Labour Party chairman, Baroness Uddin, a Labour peer, as well as Elliot Morley and David Chaytor, the two Labour MPs who claimed for ?phantom? mortgages.

Lord Hanningfield blamed a ?vindictive campaign against me? and insisted he could justify all of his expenses claims. He said: ?I work extremely hard on the front bench and am satisfied that I can account for my expenses.?

The investigation could put pressure on David Cameron, the Tory leader, to suspend the peer from his duties pending the outcome of the inquiry.

In total, Lord Hanningfield claimed ?25,000 from taxpayers for overnight accommodation and daily allowances in 2007-08. Over the past seven years, he claimed ?99,970 in ?overnight subsistence? and ?49,955 in ?day subsistence? ? covering meals and incidental travel. The rules state that peers can claim ?174 a night if their main home is outside London and their stay is ?for the purpose of attending sittings of the House?. Claims can only be made for nights immediately preceding or following a sitting. Peers do not have to provide receipts, and are simply required to ?clock in? with at the Lords in order to receive their allowances. The rules also say: ?Members who travel home each night or whose main residence is within Greater London cannot claim overnight subsistence.?

Peers are also allowed to claim ?day subsistence costs within a daily limit of ?86.50 for each day of attendance?.

Lord Hanningfield is also able to claim expenses as leader of the Essex Council. He claimed expenses of ?59,110 in 2006-07, including ?36,030 as leader, ?5,319 for travel and ?7,466 for fares and subsistence.


Commenting on the investigation, Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes said: ?As Lord Hanningfield does the job of being a Conservative peer in the House of Lord as well as fulfilling the role as leader of Essex County Council, there has always been the potential for confusion over expenses.

?I am aware there are many days when Lord Hanningfield works both here at county hall and at the House of Lords, so would be eligible to make different claims in both places on the same day. I hope this investigation will stimulate Essex County Council into improving the way it deals with councillors? expenses, including making them available to the public. Councillors? 2007/08 expenses have not yet been published, although many other councils have already published 2008/09 expenses. The council should also lay down clear boundaries and guidelines on all councillors? expenses, including for the leader.?

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