Double Standards on fiddling expenses

Whilst Peers who fiddle their expenses are allowed to quit without an investigation, the general worker would not be given the same privilege by their employer.

The House of Lords says it will not investigate peers after they resign because it would be ‘disproportionate’

The House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament

The House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament Photo: PA

Peers suspected of fiddling their expenses or breaking Parliamentary rules will be able to escape a formal investigation if they leave the House of Lords, it was announced yesterday.

The House of Lords privileges committee said that it would be “disproportionate” to investigate former peers when the strongest punishment it could administer would be a public “admonishment”.

Sir Alistair Graham, the former head of the Commons Committee on Standards in Public life, warned that the move could erode public trust.

He said: “If there is the possibility of an abuse of public funds then I would have thought they have a public duty to investigate, even though they are retiring from the House of Lords.

“There is always there possibility a criminal offence might have been committed, it’s an overly casual approach to these matters. We will just get an increased disengagement from the public.”

The House of Lords allowed peers to retire for the first time in 2014. Last year Lord Sewel, a former Labour peer, resigned amid claims he took Class A drugs at a sex party. The Lords opened a formal investigation into the former peer but closed it when he retired.

There have also been a series of cases involving peers who fiddled their expenses, including Lord Hanningfield who was jailed for falsely claiming overnight expenses.

The Privileges committee said: “The only sanction that could result from a finding that a former member had breached the Code would be admonishment by the House.

“The strongest sanctions (expulsion, suspension and denial of access to House facilities or financial support) would be unavailable. It would be disproportionate for time and resources to be spent on an investigation in such circumstances.”

It added that a “similar difficulty” would arise if a member of the Lords had fiddled their expenses. “Although the House could order repayment, if a former member refused to comply such an order could be enforced only by bringing legal action, which might involve a rehearing of the matter.

“In addition, former members could not be obliged to co-operate with investigations.Finally, a member facing a serious and high-profile allegation may decide not to retire from the House if the member knows he or she will be subject to investigation anyway, and so would have less incentive to retire.

“For these reasons, we recommend that former members should not be subject to investigation. Any investigation under way when a member leaves the House should terminate at that point.”