The Conduct of Lord Clarke of Hampstead - Privileges Committee Contents


Letter from the Registrar to Lord Clarke of Hampstead, 11 February 2010

As you may know, the Clerk of the Parliaments has asked the Sub-Committee on Lords' interests for advice on the facts of your use of the members' reimbursement scheme in the light of your own reference of 2 June 2009 and a complaint from a member of the public of 17 November 2009. The procedure for considering complaints against members of the House is set out in a report from the Committee for Privileges and I enclose a copy of that report. The report is specifically about breaches of the Code of Conduct: this case is not about the Code of Conduct but I expect that the Sub-Committee will follow a similar procedure.

The first step is for me to put to you the allegations and to invite you to provide the Sub-Committee with a full and accurate written account of the matter. On 31 May 2009 the Sunday Times newspaper reported you as having admitted to have "'fiddled' [your] expenses":

i) by claiming night subsistence on days when you in fact returned to your main residence in Hertfordshire; and

ii) on days when you did stay in London, by claiming the full amount of night subsistence when you may not have incurred that much expense.

On 2 June 2009 you made a personal statement to the House in which you apologised to the House but said that the newspaper reports were not accurate in every respect. You then met and corresponded with the House of Lords Finance Department, correspondence which concluded on 25 June 2009 with you sending them a cheque for £9,190 to reimburse the House for claims for night subsistence on days when you "may have incorrectly claimed" (the quote is from your letter to the Finance Department dated 23 June 2009). I enclose a copy of the records the House holds about your claims. We hold records from April 2006 and the Sub-Committee will not investigate conduct before that date.

May I please ask you to respond to the allegations at (i) and (ii) above.

I enclose a copy of the resolution of the House on which the members' reimbursement scheme is founded and a copy of the General Guide to that scheme.

Baroness Manningham-Buller, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, has asked me to acknowledge that you are the only member to have apologised to the House for your conduct and to have referred yourself to the Clerk of the Parliaments; and to say that the Sub-Committee will bear this in mind during its investigation.

I should be grateful for your response by 22 February, to enable the Sub-Committee to consider the matter at its next meeting and to dispose of the matter if possible before the dissolution of Parliament.

Letter from Lord Clarke of Hampstead to the Registrar, 21 February 2010

Thank you for your letter with enclosures of 11th February 2010. Thank you also for extending the date for my reply to the 23rd February 2010

Your letter was forwarded to my home address from the House of Lords and arrived on 16th February 2010. You have asked me to respond to the allegations at (i) and (ii) in your letter of 11th February 2010.

After I was invited to become a Life Peer by the Prime Minister in 1998, I was invited to meet the then Chief Whip in the House of Lords, Lord Carter of Devizes. In our meeting, Lord Carter told me that Peers were not paid a salary. Instead a Peer was entitled to claim various "allowances" when he or she attended the House of Lords. He enquired where I lived and I told him that I lived in St Albans. He asked whether this was outside the M25. When I confirmed that it was, he said, "That's good you are entitled to claim the full overnight allowance as well".

He indicated that whenever I attended the House of Lords, I should claim the allowances in full and that I was entitled to claim the overnight allowance whenever I attended consecutive days' sittings of the House of Lords because I lived outside the M25. Lord Carter explicitly stated that the claims were treated as attendance allowances and were paid as such in lieu of salary.

I was paired with a "mentor", Lord Gladwin of Clee. He, in turn, confirmed that the House authorities paid the allowances on the basis described by Lord Carter. The position was further confirmed by Lord Dean [of Beswick], who assisted me in completing my first claim form.

I was therefore under the honest belief that, notwithstanding the wording of the forms, I was entitled to claim the night subsistence to the full allowance for any days when I attended consecutive sittings of the House. I understood that this was an agreement reached and acted upon by the House authorities.

I have not been alone in believing that the Members' Reimbursement Scheme is operated as an "allowance" scheme. I note that whilst the April 2009 "general guide" is headed "Members' Reimbursement Scheme", earlier versions describe it as a "Members' Reimbursement [and?] Allowance Scheme". I refer also to the Review Body on Senior Salaries Consultation document of the 29th June 2009 at paras 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 and the report in November 2009 (Report No. 71, Cm 7746) at paragraphs 1.4, 1.10 and 3.4.

So far as paragraph 2 of your letter of 11th February 2010 is concerned:

1. I do not accept that I "fiddled" my expenses. I believed that I was entitled to make the claims because of what I had been told by the Chief Whip and other Peers.

I understood that this was the agreed basis of claims between the Authorities and members of the government and Whips. I realised when I spoke to the journalist from the Sunday Times that my claims might well be described as "fiddled" by outside commentators in the midst of a hostile public mood.

2. I accept that on some occasions I claimed night subsistence on days when I returned to my main residence in Hertfordshire between sittings. I made the claims, believing I was entitled to do so. In the light of the evolving "expenses furore" I realised that those claims would not be supported by the wider public. I went through my diary and attempted to identify every occasion when I might have returned to my home to sleep between sittings while claiming the overnight allowance. I am by no means certain that I did indeed sleep at home on those nights in question since I have no direct record of my movements. I base this only on a possible pattern of behaviour. Where there is doubt in my mind I have included the occasion in the calculation, and repaid a total of £9,190 to the Finance Department of the House of Lords for the period from 2003. This must represent the very maximum possible amount that has been claimed since 2003 under the arrangements on occasions when I returned home between sittings.

3. So far as (ii) is concerned, I was told that I should claim the full amount of the allowance for night subsistence and that I was entitled to do so.

Letter from the Registrar to Lord Clarke of Hampstead, 4 March 2010

The Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests today considered the allegations about your use of the members' reimbursement scheme. Before they determine your case, they have asked me to find out what arrangements you made to stay in London away from your main residence for the purpose of attending the House between March 2006 and today. Did you "maintain a residence in London" or did you make other arrangements?

In considering whether you maintained a residence in London, I should draw your attention to the threshold set by the House Committee for the definition of "main residence". The House Committee decided that ownership was not a requirement but a factor in each case.

I should be grateful for your response by 11 March, to enable the Sub-Committee to consider the matter at its next meeting and to dispose of the matter before the dissolution of Parliament.

Letter from Lord Clarke of Hampstead to the Registrar, 11 March 2010

Thank you for your letter dated 4th March. As I said in our telephone conversation yesterday, I am writing to confirm that your letter, although dated 4th March, arrived in my internal post only yesterday afternoon.

I have enclosed the envelope for your information. It bears the first class postage authority from the Clerk of the Parliaments office and was screened by the Houses of Parliament Contractor only on Wednesday 10th March.

May I respectfully point out that every day since the Sub-Committee sat on 4th of March I have been making enquiries as to the outcome and have been anxiously awaiting news of what the Sub-Committee had decided. To receive your letter six days late has added to my anxiety. Given the deadline that you have set, I would have thought a telephone call to me on 4th March as a courtesy would have avoided the present situation.

As to the substantive enquiry, please advise the Sub-Committee that at no time have I "maintained a residence in London" but have made other arrangements for accommodation on the occasions when I spent a night in London.

I have noted the definition of a main residence; I can only add that I have never owned or maintained any residence other than my present home in St Albans.

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