"A senior aide to Jeremy Corbyn was plunged into a major expenses scandal last night.
Lord Bassam, Labour’s Chief Whip in the Lords, admitted that he had been wrong to claim tens of thousands of pounds in taxpayers’ money after The Mail on Sunday investigated his travel expenses.
He faces further questions over another £260,000 ‘second home’ allowance that he has pocketed since 2010 – despite not having one.
Lord Bassam last night promised to pay back up to £41,000 in expenses he claimed for commuting between Westminster and his Brighton home.
If he was forced to pay back the housing allowance instead, the total would greatly exceed anything refunded by an MP in the 2009 Commons expenses scandal.
The 64-year-old peer has been nicknamed ‘Lord Swampy’ – a reference to the New Age eco-warrior of the 1990s – because of his background as a squatters’ leader when he was plain Steve Bassam in the 1970s. He now lives with wife Jill in a £1 million townhouse in Brighton’s fashionable Kemptown district. Because of his position as Chief Whip, and because his main home is not in London, he is one of a handful of Lords’ frontbenchers entitled to a Lords Office Holders Allowance (LOHA), currently £36,366 a year (worth about £22,000 after tax)."
The Daily Mirror contnues to milk this story, here on 24th October 2017,
Calls to reform the House of Lords grew tonight in the wake of the latest expenses scandal , where greedy peers have pocketed tens of thousands of pounds each for turning up and doing nothing.
Seventeen claimed £424,637 of taxpayers’ cash between them in the last year, despite failing to speak, sit on a committee or submit a written question.
Labour peer Lord Kirkhill trousered the most, with £43,896, followed by Baroness Adams on £41,287.
The news comes just weeks after we revealed 115 lords claimed £1.3million in the past year despite not speaking once in the upper chamber.
In the wake of that report, a spokesman insisted peers contributed in other ways such as by providing written questions or being on a committee. But today we can reveal 73 of those 115 did neither.
And 17, at least four of whom are former Eton public schoolboys, each claimed more than £10,000. Nine made more in expenses than the average Briton’s pay of £22,226 a year.
Campaign group Unlock Democracy branded the cash-for-nothing scandal “indefensible”.
Director Alexandra Runswick said: “The Government tells us we don’t have enough money to fund the NHS but we’re expected to tolerate people treating Parliament as a subsidised drop-in centre. We need fundamental reform so the second chamber is accountable to the people.”
Electoral Reform Society chief executive Darren Hughes added: “This is the second expenses scandal revealed in just a month. Enough is enough. We need real reform.
“The fact that nearly one in 10 peers is failing to contribute to the work of the House is bad enough. But it leaves a nasty taste when a significant chunk of those are claiming more than the average worker takes home in a year.
“While many peers do work hard, it does our democracy a huge disservice when dozens of unelected peers are taking advantage of the lack of scrutiny, and appear to be gaming the system.
“To the public, and indeed to some lords, the upper chamber has become simply a members’ club. This is no fit state for the mother of all Parliaments. Voters are sick of scandal after scandal, ones which stem from a total lack of accountability.
“We need a smaller, fairly elected upper house that the public can have faith in and where voters can hold ineffective peers to account.”
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has previously said the 798-member chamber could be halved.
The latest figures came from an analysis of expenses records for the Lords in 2016/17 by the Electoral Reform Society and seen by the Mirror.
The full data is expected to be published later this week.
Expenses figures are released every three months. They were drawn from the House of Lords official records.
"Calls for a radical overhaul of the House of Lords grew last night over the scandal of peers being paid to turn up and contribute little or nothing to debates and votes.
Over a year, 115 claimed £1.2million of taxpayers’ cash in expenses without saying a word during upper chamber discussions. And £4million was handed to the 277 who spoke five times or fewer.
They were all given their £300 daily attendance allowance, despite their lack of involvement in debates or votes.
It sparked accusations a “something for nothing” culture was rife among peers as the Government slashes public services while subjecting millions of workers to pay cuts.
Among those in the line of fire was former Tory peer Baroness Flather who claimed £37,932.00 in expenses for 2016/17 but failed to vote even once.
The shock figures came from an analysis of voting, speaking and expenses records for the Lords carried out by the Electoral Reform Society. Chief executive Darren Hughes said: “These figures are a damning indictment of the state of the House of Lords …
The ERS also found £7,3million was claimed by 394 peers who contributed to debates 10 times or fewer. More than half of all peers claimed more in tax-free expenses than the average Brit’s wages, which is £22,226.25. Among them were Lord Laird who claimed £48,279.00 in expenses and only voted twice.
Lord Paul raked in £38,100 for seven votes. Baroness Afshar claimed £34,966 but only voted three times."
The Times reinvigorated the story on 2nd April, specifically mentioning Lord Paul, "one of Britain's richest men … Paul, a crossbencher who was suspended seven years ago for an expenses violation, received £40,800 last year despite making no contributions in the chamber or on committees." Lords Evans of Watford, Carswell and Hanningfield are also detailed.
On 13th March 2017, both the Guardian and the Mail carried stories arising from the contemporanious BBC series on the House of Lords.
An investigation that revealed members of the House of Lords clocking in to claim their £300 daily allowance without doing any parliamentary work was dropped to avoid a “press storm”, a former Lord Speaker has admitted.
Frances D’Souza said that, despite identifying peers involved in the practice during a months-long investigation, she wanted to avoid naming and shaming individuals.
“What I wanted to find out in the research that I did a few months ago was who was attending and what they were claiming, and even though it is very difficult to quantify there are some who make no contribution whatsoever but who nevertheless claim the full amount,” Lady D’Souza said in BBC2’s Meet the Lords.
“This is not a daycare centre or a club, it is actually a legislative house, and I do firmly believe that the people who attend ought to be able to be in a position to contribute.”
She added: “I abandoned this research because it would have involved a degree of naming and shaming, which I certainly didn’t want to do. But also that would in turn have provoked some kind of sort of a press storm, which clearly I didn’t wish to to do.”
The peer admitted the reputation of the Lords has “probably never been lower”.
She said: “The public perception is of a house full of aged males sitting around perhaps sleeping on the benches and the public only gets to know of the work of the House of Lords when the House of Lords really thwarts the government or because there’s been a scandal.”
She had previously alleged that one member kept a taxi running outside while signing in to collect the daily allowance.