APPENDIX: REPORT FROM THE SUB-COMMITTEE
ON LORDS' CONDUCT
Members' reimbursement scheme: the conduct of Baroness
Introduction and summary
1. This report responds to a letter from the Clerk
of the Parliaments dated 12 March 2010 which, following the Report
from the Committee for Privileges on the procedure for considering
complaints against members
("the report on procedure"), invited the Sub-Committee
on Lords' Interests
to help him investigate a complaint about Baroness Uddin's use
of the members' reimbursement scheme.
2. We find that the facts of Lady Uddin's occupation
of her designated main residences for the purpose of the members'
reimbursement scheme both in Frinton and in Maidstone did not
meet the criteria endorsed by the House Committee on 26 January
2010 (p16E). She
wrongly claimed £125,349.10 and should be required to repay
this amount. We further find that Lady Uddin did not make her
claims for night subsistence away from the properties and for
the mileage allowance in good faith. We recommend that the
House sanction Lady Uddin by requiring her to make a personal
statement of apology to the House and thereafter suspending her
from the service of the House for three years or until she has
repaid the amount wrongly claimed, whichever is the later.
The allegation, complaint and process of investigation
Allegation and complaint
3. On 3 May 2009, the Sunday Times newspaper
alleged that Lady Uddin had designated as her main residence a
flat in Kent which neighbours said had been unoccupied for years
"A Labour peer who lives in the East End of
London has claimed about £100,000 in parliamentary expenses
on a flat in Kent that neighbours say has been unoccupied for
years ... Inquiries by The Sunday Times have established
that the Lady bought a two-bedroom flat in Maidstone in 2005 and
has named it as her main home to claim almost £30,000 a year
in accommodation expenses from the House of Lords. Residents from
the five other flats in the same block as Uddin's property all
say they have never seen her there. They could see through the
windows that the bedrooms were unfurnished."
4. Mr Angus Robertson MP complained about Lady Uddin's
alleged conduct on 3 May 2009 (p45).
Procedure for investigation of allegations about
5. The House Committee is the principal domestic
committee of the House and is responsible for the members' reimbursement
scheme (p5B). On 20 October 2009, the Committee endorsed a procedure
for dealing with complaints relating to the scheme (p15H). It
involved investigation by the Clerk of the Parliaments as Accounting
Officer; reference to this Sub-Committee in "complex or serious"
cases; report by the Clerk of the Parliaments to the House Committee;
and sanctioning by the Committee for Privileges if appropriate
(p16B). On 6 July 2010, the Clerk of the Parliaments and House
Committee agreed to stand aside in this and two other cases where
this Sub-Committee had been involved: thus this report goes via
the Clerk of the Parliaments to the Committee for Privileges and
Conduct, to whom lies Lady Uddin's right of appeal.
Procedure in this investigation
6. On 5 May 2009, the Lord President (Lady Royall
of Blaisdon) announced that the Clerk of the Parliaments, as Accounting
Officer, would carry out an initial investigation into the allegations
against Lady Uddin.
Lady Uddin then met and corresponded with the Clerk of the Parliaments
in relation to his investigation. The Metropolitan Police had
meanwhile decided to investigate whether Lady Uddin had committed
an offence under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 or the Fraud
Act 2006. The Clerk of the Parliaments suspended his own investigation
into Lady Uddin until the criminal process had concluded. On 12
March 2010 a joint Crown Prosecution Service/Metropolitan Police
Service panel decided not to prosecute Lady Uddin and the Clerk
of the Parliaments resumed his own investigation; he immediately
asked the Sub-Committee to "investigate and determine the
facts of the complaint" (p56J).
Investigation by the Sub-Committee
7. The report on procedure says that we may not accept
for investigation a complaint going back more than four years:
we may thus examine conduct in this case from 3 May 2005. We have
not limited our investigation to the allegation made by the Sunday
Times newspaper but have instead generally investigated Lady
Uddin's use of the members' reimbursement scheme. We have focused
on Lady Uddin's claims for night subsistence and travel. Lady
Uddin's claims for day subsistence, office costs and Select Committee
expenses are not at issue.
8. Our investigation was interrupted by the dissolution
of Parliament on 12 April 2010. The new House met on 18 May and
appointed the Committee for Privileges and Conduct on 2 June.
The Committee appointed this Sub-Committee on 7 June. We reported
to the Clerk of the Parliaments on 28 July with the recommendation
that, to retain confidentiality during the summer recess without
affecting the timetable for any appeal, he should forward the
report to the Chairman of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct
only towards the end of the summer recess.
9. Lady Uddin, in correspondence with the Registrar,
stressed her concern that the investigation might be unfair (p60G):
"I am told that the enquiry into my affairs
has been occasioned by an article appearing in the Sunday Times.
This does not seem to me to be appropriate when others have had
the opportunity simply to have their explanations accepted by
Mr Pownall. My case appears to have been singled out for special
treatment. I simply do not understand why that is the case when
I have satisfied the criteria set out above.
I am deeply concerned as to how the adjudication
the committee is to undertake can respect the principle of natural
justice and the requirements of a fair trial when there has been
such extensive media coverage, both of my own affairs and of the
criteria applied by Mr Pownall.
First, at the time of announcement of the cessation
of the criminal investigation into my affairs, Mr Pownall made
unprecedented public comment on the criteria he had set for the
purpose of the House's internal investigations. He went on to
add to the standards he had previously published and remarked
that his standards were not intended to apply to the criminal
I ask how it can be appropriate for criteria to be
determined as investigations proceed and for the Officer responsible
then to comment on their application in the media.
Secondly, it seems to me that wide spread media coverage
has involved a public debate of the merits of my expenses and
allowances claim. That cannot be fair."
10. She continues in her statement (p62K):
25. Whilst respecting the absolute authority of the
House and its procedures I have failed to understand why some
explanations made by some members in respect of their allowances
have been accepted by the Clerk of the Parliaments, Mr Pownall,
in February 2010 whilst claims made by myself have been the subject
of such intense scrutiny.
11. She further complains that she was given insufficient
opportunity to consult her friend during the oral evidence session;
and that the deadlines we set for her thereafter were too tight
(pp201L; 198L; 201E).
12. Lady Uddin has been referred to this Sub-Committee
when others were not because her case was investigated by the
police but the others were not. The Clerk of the Parliaments considered
that any case investigated by the police fell into the "complex
or serious" category and so required the Sub-Committee's
assistance. In endorsing
the Clerk of the Parliaments' approach to certain cases, the House
Committee "concluded that the Clerk was justified in relying
on explicit written assurances from Members, noting that the consequences
for a Member found to have misled the Clerk would be serious"
13. We have been careful to follow the requirements
of the report on procedure, especially in relation to procedural
safeguards. We have taken no account of media coverage of Lady
Uddin save that the allegation about her use of the members' reimbursement
scheme was made in the initial article. We consider the question
of precedent and the decided cases at paragraphs 87-92. In
our opinion, the process in this case has been fair and appropriate.
Lady Uddin's concerns about the conduct of the evidence session
and subsequent timetable are for the Committee for Privileges
and Conduct to consider on any appeal.
14. The Sub-Committee had as written evidence the
amounts claimed by Lady Uddin since April 2001 (p47A) and her
claim forms since March 2006
(pp31-43); correspondence between the House authorities and Lady
Uddin (p46-67); a letter from the Sunday Times and transcripts
of most of the telephone
conversations and interviews on which their article was based
(pp68F-101); and witness statements taken by the Metropolitan
Police Service in the course of their investigation of Lady Uddin
(pp103-63). We welcome the constructive approach of the police
in taking the difficult decision to release to us the material
they gathered. The officers of the Sub-Committee corresponded
with Lady Uddin. We took oral evidence in private from Lady Uddin,
to whom we had earlier disclosed the written evidence. The report
on procedure says:
25. The Code of Conduct states that "in the
investigation and adjudication of complaints against them, Members
of the House have the right to safeguards as rigorous as those
applied in the courts and professional disciplinary bodies."
They may be accompanied to any meeting by a colleague, friend
or legal adviser, but every effort is made to keep proceedings
informal, and there is no expectation that they should be so accompanied.
If they do choose to bring a friend or adviser, they will nevertheless
be expected to answer for themselves (and not through their friend
or adviser) any questions put to them."
15. Lady Uddin brought Lady McDonagh with her to
the evidence session.
16. We recommend that all of this evidence be
published, subject only to giving the police sufficient time to
allow them to inform those from whom they took statements.
17. The police rightly redacted certain personal
information in the witness statements which they provided to the
Sub-Committee, including addresses. We have printed the statements
as received, without adapting them into House style (pp103-63).
Using the contents of the statements, the material provided by
the Sunday Times and publically available information including
the electoral roll, we have recreated the addresses of those of
Lady Uddin's neighbours who gave statements. We have used the
addresses in this report and in the contents page of the evidence
volume. We have done so because knowledge of each witness's address
is important to attributing credibility and weight to each statement.
18. Lady Uddin asked us to redact certain details
in this report and the evidence (p202A). We have not done so because
we consider it important to submit a complete account to the Clerk
of the Parliaments and Committee for Privileges and Conduct. The
Committee for Privileges and Conduct, when considering in what
form to report to the House, may wish to consider whether to redact
information about Lady Uddin's children.
19. The report on procedure says:
"Assessing the evidence
26. When its investigation is concluded, the Sub-Committee
assesses the evidence. In order to find against a Member, the
Sub-Committee requires at least that the allegation is proved
on the balance of probabilities.
27. If the investigation has uncovered material evidence
that is at variance with the Member's version of events, this
will be put to the Member, who will have a chance to challenge
it. Before reaching its conclusions, the Sub-Committee will also
share with the Member a draft of those parts of its report dealing
with issues of fact, so that the Member has an opportunity to
comment on them.
28. If there remain significant contested issues
of fact, the Sub-Committee will agree its own account of the facts
of the case, while drawing to the attention of the Committee for
Privileges and the House any challenge to this account made by
the Member concerned."
20. To fulfil these paragraphs, we showed Lady Uddin
a draft of our account of the facts set out in paragraphs 21 to
85. She challenged a number of points in our draft. We have taken
account of some but not all of her points in the version below
and, as required, we draw attention to the memoranda by Lady
Uddin printed at pp198J and 203C.
21. The facts of the case are as follows.
The members' reimbursement scheme
22. The members' reimbursement scheme is founded
on resolutions of the House and is explained in a General Guide
published by the Finance Department and in a Quick Guide
set out on the reverse of the claim form. The Clerk of the Parliaments
is responsible for administering the scheme, subject to direction
by the House Committee on points of difficulty or doubt (p5B).
The relevant resolutions and guidance are set out in full at pp1-15
of the printed evidence but we must here quote some relevant passages.
The resolutions of the House and published guidance
23. The principal resolution of the House in relation
to day and night subsistence is that of 25 July 1991 (p1D). It
"(1) Members of this House, except any Lord
who receives a salary under the Ministerial and other Salaries
Act 1975 and the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees,
shall be entitled to recover (in addition to the costs of travel
for which other provision is made) expenses certified by them
(a) expenses incurred (otherwise than as mentioned
in sub-paragraph (b) below) for the purpose of attendance at sittings
of this House or of Committees of this House, or
(b) expenses incurred in staying overnight away from
their only or main residence where it is necessary to do so for
24. The principle that a member may claim a separate
allowance towards the recovery of the cost of travel by car for
the purpose of parliamentary duties was established by a resolution
of the House of 17 May 1961 (p1A). The current resolution relating
to travel by car is that of 10 November 2004 (p2C). It reads:
"That this House approves the following proposals
with respect to payments of car, bicycle and motorcycle allowances
to Lords for journeys which they have commenced on or after 10
(1) The maximum allowance payable in respect of a
journey by car, motorcycle or bicycle should be payable at the
rate which is applicable to that kind of vehicle under subsection
(2) of section 230 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act
2003, as amended from time to time.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the reference
in that subsection to "the first 10,000 miles" is to
the total number of miles of travel by car by the Lord claiming
the allowance, which is either
(a) undertaken for the purpose of attending this
House for the purposes of his parliamentary duties, or
(b) undertaken while on parliamentary duties within
the United Kingdom."
25. It is clear from the resolutions that the
purpose of the scheme is the recovery of expenses necessarily
incurred in attending the House.
26. As to the guidance, the 2005 edition of the General
Guide read (pp2-14):
"1.2.1 Members of the House of Lords do not,
in general, receive a salary in respect of their parliamentary
duties. However, Members may be reimbursed actual expenses arising
out of these duties, in accordance with the rules of the Members'
Reimbursement Allowance Scheme. The Members' Reimbursement Allowance
Scheme is governed by Resolutions of the House. Rules for the
recovery of Members' expenses are administered by the Clerk of
the Parliaments who also has limited discretion to deal with matters
that arise on claims. Points of particular difficulty or doubt
may be referred to the House Committee, which supervises the arrangements
for the reimbursement of expenses ...
1.3 Taxable status
1.3.1 All amounts paid in settlement of claims as
detailed in this guide represent reimbursement of actual expenses
arising out of unpaid parliamentary duty, rather than income from
employment. Consequently, they are not subject to income tax,
and need not be included on a tax return ...
4 ATTENDANCE AT SITTINGS AT WESTMINSTER
4.1 General - Expenses Related to Attendance
4.1.1 The basic principle underlying the scheme is
that the entitlement to recover expenses arises only in respect
of attendance at sittings of the House or its committees at Westminster
4.1.3 Members who wish to claim attendance expenses
must complete and sign the attendance expenses claim form and
forward it as soon as convenient after the end of each month,
or period of claim, to the Members' Expenses Section. A Member's
signature effectively certifies that the amount claimed has been
spent for the purposes of parliamentary duties as set out above.
Receipts are not required ...
4.2 Travelling Expenses
4.2.1 Claims may be made only for journeys over five
miles between a Member's main place of residence in the United
Kingdom and Westminster. Claims for incidental travel costs (e.g.
those arising from short distance journeys within a five mile
radius of Westminster, tolls and car parking charges) are covered
by the day subsistence allowance (4.5).
4.2.2 Members seeking to receive travel costs must
register their main place of residence with the Members' Expenses
Section. Members with more than one main place of residence may
register an alternative main residence with the Members' Expenses
Section for the purpose of claiming travelling expenses. Registration
is subject to the approval of the Clerk of the Parliaments ...
4.2.4 Members may recover the cost of fares incurred
by them for travel by any public railway, sea, and air or bus
service, or the costs of journey made by private car ...
4.2.8 Claims in respect of journeys by private car
are payable at:
· 40p per mile up to 10,000 miles in the
year ending 31 March; and
· 25p per mile for mileage in excess of
10,000 miles in the same year.
No other claims in respect of motoring expenses are
reimbursable under the travelling expenses heading. Incidental
travel costs such as tolls, congestion charges and car-parking
charges can be claimed against the daily limit of the day subsistence
4.4 Night Subsistence
4.4.1 Members whose main residence is outside Greater
London may claim for expenses of overnight accommodation in London
while away from their only or main residence. The maximum daily
limit is £154.50.
4.4.2 A Member whose main residence is outside Greater
London and who maintains a residence in London for the purpose
of attending sittings of the House may claim this allowance towards
the cost of maintaining such a residence.
4.4.3 Claims for night subsistence are only permissible
in respect of nights actually spent in London either immediately
preceding or following attendance at a sitting or meeting described
in paragraph 4.1.1 above. For example, a Member who necessarily
travels to London on a Sunday and attends sittings of the House
on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then returns home
on Friday or later may claim night subsistence for a maximum of
5 nights at up to a maximum of £154.50 per night (i.e. a
maximum of £772.50 for the week). However, if the Member
returned home on the Thursday evening, the maximum claim for night
subsistence would be 4 nights at up to a maximum of £154.50
per night (i.e. a maximum of £618 for the week).
4.4.4 Members who choose to travel home each night
or whose main residence is within Greater London cannot claim
the night subsistence allowance."
27. The General Guide was updated in January
2007, October 2008 and April 2009. The language used to describe
the scheme was materially the same in each edition until 2009,
which left out the word "allowance" in several places,
including in the title of the guide
and in paragraph 4.4.2 in relation to night subsistence.
28. The claim form used until October 2008 read (p31):
"I certify that during the month of ............
I have attended a sitting of the House or of a Committee of the
House on the under-mentioned dates and claim reimbursement of:
(a) Night subsistence incurred in such attendance
or in respect of the maintenance of a London residence (other
than a main residence) used for the purpose of attending the House
(see note (i)) ...
(d) Travelling Expenses (please ensure all
travel dates are entered) (see note (v))"
Thereafter paragraph (d) read (p35F):
"(d) Travelling Expenses see note (v)"
29. At the bottom of the form, the claimant has to
print his name, sign, date the claim and enter his main place
30. Notes (i) and (v) refer to the Quick Guide
printed on the reverse of the claim form which in 2005 read
"(i) Night Subsistence - Members
whose main residence is outside Greater London may claim expenses,
within a daily limit of £154.50 (from 1 August 2005 to 31
July 2006), for nights spent away from their only or main residence
for the purpose of attending sittings of the House a) where they
have incurred expenses of overnight accommodation in London or;
b) as a contribution towards the costs of maintaining a London
residence in connection with their parliamentary duties. Claims
can only be made in respect of days of attendance ...
(v) Travelling Expenses - These may
be claimed for journeys between main place of residence in the
United Kingdom and London by any public railway, sea, air or bus
service. Claims in respect of journeys by private car are restricted
to an allowance of 40p per mile up to 10,000 miles then 25p thereafter.
Claims in respect of journeys undertaken by motorcycle are paid
at the rate of 24p per mile and by bicycle at the rate of 20p
31. The rates changed over the period. In August
2006 paragraph (v) read:
"(v) Travelling Expenses - Claims
may be made only for journeys over five miles between a Member's
main place of residence in the United Kingdom and Westminster
by any public railway, sea, air or bus service. Claims in respect
of journeys by private car are restricted to an allowance of 40p
per mile up to 10,000 miles then 25p thereafter. Claims in respect
of journeys undertaken by motorcycle are paid at the rate or 24p
per mile and by bicycle at the rate of 20p per mile. Claims for
incidental travel costs are covered by the day subsistence allowance
(see section (ii))."
32. In August 2009 paragraph (i) had a sentence added
to the end: "When claiming Night Subsistence dates of travel
must be shown on the claim form." As did paragraph (v): "Members
are required to provide receipts or vouchers when submitting claims
for ticketed travel in excess of £50 per return journey (£25
per single journey).".
33. Although the Quick Guide says "Members
are encouraged to contact the Finance Department, House of Lords
for general assistance, or to discuss any particular points that
arise from their claims", in practice the onus on interpreting
the scheme has fallen on the individual member. Save for the Lord
President (Lord Soames) speaking of the member's "usual residence"
when moving the motion which first set up the night subsistence
regime in 1979, there was no guidance on the meaning of "main
residence" other than the two words themselves until March
Lady Uddin's designated main residences, claims and
Lady Uddin's designated main residences
34. Lady Uddin successively designated three main
residences in the period from 3 May 2005 to the end of the last
Parliament on 12 April 2010. Until 1 August 2005 it was XXXXXXXXX,
Frinton on Sea, Essex CO13 XXX. From 1 August 2005 to 1 January
2010 it was 3 The Chenies, Chancery Lane, Maidstone, Kent ME15
6EE. In this report, we divide this period at Maidstone into two:
before and after 24 April 2009, the date on which Lady Uddin became
aware of the Sunday Times' interest in her main residence
(p88L; Q32). On 1 January 2010 Lady Uddin designated XXXXXXXX,
Wapping, London, E1W XXX as her main residence (Q28).
Period 1: Frinton: 3 May 2005 to 31 July 2005
Facts relating to the Frinton property: circumstances
35. Lady Uddin became a member of the House in 1998.
On an unknown date
in 2001, she designated XXXXXXXX, Frinton on Sea, Essex CO13 XXX
as her main residence. The property is a large house which used
to be a care home (p96H; Q228). Lady Uddin's brother and sister-in-law
own the property and have lived there since 1999 (p94A; Q20).
36. The House of Lords Finance Department has retained
the amounts claimed each month by members under each head since
2003 but has only retained claim forms from March 2006; members'
earlier claim forms have been disposed of in accordance with the
department's disposal policy. From the data held, it appears that
Lady Uddin claimed night subsistence, day subsistence, office
costs and the mileage allowance for weekly journeys by car from
and to Frinton almost every weekend when the House was sitting
for the period May to July 2005 (p24E). This pattern of claim
is true for the period back to the start of retained records in
2003 and appears also to be true of the period back to the point
of designation in 2001 (p47A; QQ289-90).
37. Lady Uddin has XXXX she required
a "bolt hole" for breathing space XXXXXXXX (p163D; p61K).
She initially rented a one bedroom flat in Windsor for this purpose
but could not afford the rent. So she began to use her brother's
home as a bolt hole (p61K; p163D). She decided to continue living
in the marital home with her children in the week (QQ219; Q267).
She had two separate lives: one family, one to herself (Q237).
The stress in Lady Uddin's personal life was confirmed by her
peer mentor (Lady Pitkeathley) (p164F) and we have taken these
circumstances on trust.
38. In oral evidence, Lady Uddin told us that her
brother invited her to stay in his house (Q289), he was happy
for her to say there (Q219) and that she lived as part of their
family (Q275). She had an allocated room (Q269) in which she kept
clothes and papers (QQ271-2).
39. The police did not investigate this period but
the Sunday Times interviewed Lady Uddin's sister-in-law,
who has lived at the property since 1999. She could not recollect
Lady Uddin ever having lived at the property (p93H). Lady Uddin
said that her sister-in-law had been "terrified" by
the journalist and was simply trying to make him go away (Q267).
Facts relating to the Frinton property: travel
and frequency of visit
40. From the data held, it appears that Lady Uddin
claimed the mileage allowance for weekly journeys by car from
and to Frinton every weekend when the House was sitting for the
period May to July 2005 (p24E).
41. In oral evidence, Lady Uddin told us that she
had stayed at the property most weekends (QQ261; 290) but lived
in her London residence with her children in the week (QQ262-5).
She and her family spent a large part of the summer recess of
2009 in Frinton (Q228).
Period 2: Maidstone before Lady Uddin became aware
of the Sunday Times' interest: 1 August 2005 to 24 April 2009
Facts relating to the Maidstone property: circumstances
42. In 2005, Lady Uddin decided to acquire a property
in her own right. She bought No 3 The Chenies as a newly-built
flat and this is the only property which she owns herself (p61K;
p163F). (In London, she, her younger children and husband live
in a house rented by her husband under a housing association tenancy.)
She has paid full council tax on the property since 1 August 2005,
the date on which the property both was first occupied for the
purpose of council tax (p150G; p151A) and was designated as her
main residence (p30L). She claimed night subsistence away from
Maidstone every week when the House was sitting and claimed the
mileage allowance for weekly journeys by car from and to Maidstone
every weekend when the House was sitting, with a few exceptions
(paragraph 56 below).
43. In oral evidence, Lady Uddin told us that her
purpose in acquiring the Maidstone property was to have a place
of her own (Q310) as a "bolt hole" (Q220) in the light
of XXXXXXXXXXXXX (paragraph 37 above). It provided her with her
own space (Q101) as a sanctuary (Q85). Her husband was either
unaware of the property (p88L) or, in Lady Uddin's explanation,
he knew about the flat but was clear that it was not in any way
his (Q42). When invited to comment on the transcript of the oral
evidence session, Lady Uddin said that she had an agreement with
her husband that she would stay at Maidstone for one or two nights
a week for a break, to prepare for the week ahead and to concentrate
on XXXXXXXXXXXXX (Q96).
Description of The Chenies
44. The Chenies is a cul de sac to the east
of a road called Chancery Lane in Maidstone, Kent. The only building
on The Chenies is a terraced row of new-build flats on the north
side of the road. The road has both bays for residents' parking
and space for others to park on the street. There is a map of
Chancery Lane and its locality at (p145) and pictures of 1-6 The
Chenies at (pp141-3; p192E-194E). A single front door and staircase
serves six flats; two on each floor. 1-6 The Chenies is the first
entrance having turned into the road from Chancery Lane.
45. The police took statements from twelve of Lady
Uddin's current or former neighbours (pp120-31). We have noted
earlier that the witness statements were redacted but it appears
to us that the occupation of 1-6 The Chenies was as follows:
|X - Matthew Hollis
|First floor on street side; second floor on rear side
|X - Sarah Dunn
|3 - Lady Uddin
|Entrance. Ground floor on street side; first floor on rear side
|X - Yvonne Adams
|X - Shelley Constable; previously Gemma Fox; previously Stuart Brown
|Lower ground floor on street side; ground floor on rear side
|X - Angela Storey
46. No 3 is the entrance level flat on the left hand
(west) side; it has a kitchen/living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom
and a balcony overlooking a nature reserve (p126; QQ54-9). The
other flats are similar if not identical (QQ62; 152).
Description of Lady Uddin's flat
47. Lady Uddin told us that her flat had been furnished
throughout: it had always had furniture, curtains and lampshades
(QQ 64-76; 152), some due to it having been the show flat
(Q152), but it had been basically furnished in accordance with
her lifestyle (Q205; Q216; 219). There was no bed in the second
bedroom because she used it to pray and meditate, though some
clothes and belongings were stored there (Q205). There were toiletries
in the bathroom (Q199). She asserted that there was nothing wrong
in sleeping on the floor on a mattress (Q216) though it strikes
us that she would not have needed to do so since she told us that
the flat had always had one bed and a sofa bed (QQ 73; 65; 206).
She later told us that she slept in the bed in the main bedroom
(p200J). She did not use the balcony of the flat, but opened its
doors in good weather (Q78-9).
48. The reason for setting out Lady Uddin's description
of the flat in some detail is because her neighbours and others,
both in interviews with journalists and in formal statements to
the police, individually state that the flat was unfurnished until
the weekend of 25-26 April 2009.
49. We quote four of the statements. Ms Yvonne Adams,
who lives across the staircase from Lady Uddin's flat, says (p128E):
"Since the very beginning there have been white
sheets at the two front windows of flat 3. All the other flats
have lattice blinds or curtains so white sheets look tacky. On
one occasion one of the sheets partly fell down. There was a ceiling
light on. There was no lampshade, just a bare bulb. It was night
time and it illuminated the whole flat. All the internal doors
were wide open. I could see right into flat 3 and there was absolutely
50. Mr Stuart Brown, who lived below Lady Uddin's
flat from 1 April 2006 to 9 April 2009, says in relation to investigating
a water leak and alarm on 4 June 2007 (p129C):
"I looked through the letterbox at number 3.
There must have been a light on because I could see damp on the
carpet. I could see the hall and part of the living area which
contained the kitchen. It reminded me of when we first moved into
our flat; there were no personal items there at all. The carpets
in all the flats were light in colour. We had put a rug down in
our flat to prevent any mud from spreading. There was no rug in
flat 3 and nothing like a glass or mug or anything to suggest
the flat was occupied."
51. Mr Ian Allcock, who lives further down The Chenies,
"Since I have lived at The Chenies, I have seen
all the flats occupied apart from flat 3 which up to fairly recently
has always been empty. The reason why I can be certain about the
property being unoccupied was the fact that there were no curtains
at the window and you could see in.
About a year ago, I was going to work at my usual
time when I was surprised to see a light on in the flat, before
that it had always been dark, this allowed me to see into the
right hand bedroom which was apparently devoid of furniture. This
light stayed on for months and I can remember saying to my wife
"I wouldn't want to pay their electric bill". I assumed
that someone had been shown around the flat and the agent had
failed to turn off the light.
Another reason why I believe the flat was unoccupied
was I have never seen any of the windows or patio doors open,
even in the hottest weather."
52. On Saturday 25 April, Mr Mark Ryan, a plumber
and builder, went to Chancery Lane in his marked commercial van,
to quote for a job coincidentally for the brother of a friend
of Lady Uddin's (a Mr Moshahidur Rahman: p124L; p86D; Q192). He
was approached by "an Indian guy" who said "my
boiler's not working, can you have a look". He agreed to
do so and went into No 3 The Chenies where he saw a woman he later
recognised to be Lady Uddin. His statement continues (p125B):
"We went into the kitchen/diner/sitting room
(all one room). There was a breakfast bar and the boiler was to
the left. I had a look at the boiler and filled it up with water
to increase the pressure. The room was not lived in. I remember
seeing a cupboard under the boiler and there being nothing in
it. It is unusual because I could get access straight to the pipes,
no pots or pans or cleaning stuff. I ran the taps. I can't remember
the details of what was in the kitchen, but it definitely wasn't
a place where you would stay at the weekend. The whole place looked
like the rent hadn't been paid for six months and the tenant had
done a runner.
I then bled the radiators. I went into the bathroom,
there were no towels and no shower gel or shampoo or anything
like that. It definitely wasn't clean but it wasn't dirty, it
just wasn't lived in.
There was a bedroom at the back of the flat. It had
a mattress on the floor but with no sheets or pillows, again it
was not a lived in room. There was also a clothes rack for drying
clothes, I think I had to move it to get access to the radiator,
there were no clothes on it.
I then went into the second bedroom. The room was
empty apart from some clothes that were slung on the floor. There
may have been some built in cupboards but there was no other furniture,
there was certainly no bed in it. I was only in the flat for at
most ten minutes."
53. Mr Ryan drew an accurate sketch of the flat as
an exhibit to his statement to the police (p126; QQ54-7).
54. Lady Uddin did not accept that the flat was unfurnished
(Q142) and invited us to take no account of these statements on
four different grounds. First, that it is not possible to see
into her flat from the street (QQ152-6) and that Mr Ryan, the
only witness to have been inside the flat, had in fact only been
in the hall and kitchen and not in the other rooms (QQ192-3; 198-9;
206). Secondly, that each witness was biased against her due to
having been asked leading questions by journalists and by having
seen the adverse publicity she had received in the press (QQ150;
157; 200; 201; 212; pp200L; 203F). Thirdly, that the witnesses
used loose language in their statements (Q200). Last, that her
neighbours were wrongly comparing the basic (but appropriate to
her lifestyle and pattern of weekend occupation) furnishing of
her flat to their flats occupied full-time as homes (Q216).
55. The neighbours and plumber had earlier made similar,
consistent observations to the journalists from the Sunday
Times before the newspaper had published their article of
3 May 2010 which alleged that Lady Uddin had not lived in the
Maidstone property. Transcripts of those interviews are at (pp70-101).
Lady Uddin invited us to take no account of these statements on
the ground that the journalists' questions had been leading (pp
Usage and frequency of occupation
56. Lady Uddin claimed the mileage allowance for
weekly journeys by car from and to Maidstone every weekend when
the House was sitting, with the exception of 18 November 2006;
3 March 2007; 3 November 2007; and 6 and 13 December 2008 (pp26-9).
The claimed days of travel to Maidstone are usually Friday or
Saturday; the return to London is usually on Sunday. For the three
months April to June 2008 she recorded on her claim forms journeys
from and to the property every weekend but did not claim the mileage
allowance. When the
Finance Department queried this, she told them that she had been
given a lift (p38D).
57. Lady Uddin told us that she had indeed stayed
overnight at Maidstone every weekend when the House was sitting
(QQ49; 45). She usually went on her own but was often accompanied
by the son XXXXXXXXXX, who would also stay overnight (QQ98; 124).
Her youngest son (a child) might have stayed once or twice, she
was uncertain (QQ96-100); but she was clear that she ensured that
her lifestyle did not affect her children (Q101). She would shop
for necessities at a petrol station or at Bluewater or Lakeside
shopping centre on her way to Maidstone rather than shop in Maidstone
(Q114). She showers two or three times a day and tended to shower
in London at the end of the day, before travelling to Maidstone
(Q116-22) but also used the shower at Maidstone (Q120). She spent
her time reading or listening to the radio, keeping herself to
herself (QQ105-6; 144). She cooked in the kitchen (Q90). The time
she spent at Maidstone was often at unsocial hours (p62B), arriving
late on Friday night or Saturday morning and leaving early on
Saturday or Sunday morning (Q144). In the course of the weekend
she might visit her brother or mother and might return to London
in the day to be with her children (Q108). She did not develop
friendships or have much contact with her neighbours in either
London or Maidstone because her family and other friends were
sufficient (QQ107; 161; 112). She had however visited Ms Yvonne
Adams' flat (Q152), been seen by Ms Adams every 6 weeks when with
a group of people (Q144) and Mr Matthew Hollis had visited her
flat in relation to water leaks (Q158). These events are not referred
to in either of those neighbours' statements, though Ms Adams
may have so seen Lady Uddin (p128A) and the inference can be drawn
that Mr Hollis's former girlfriend (but not him) may have met
Lady Uddin (p70K). Letters from the managing agent were forwarded
to her London residence (Q288) on her instruction (p131H).
58. Lady Uddin told us that she continued to use
the flat in the recess though was less precise in her answers
(QQ81-89). Distilling her answers on the use she made of the flat
in the recess, she used it once a week at weekends, returning
to London for the week. She and her family spent a large part
of the summer recess of 2009 at her brother's home in Frinton
59. We rehearse this account in some detail because
her neighbours state, in contrast, that the flat was unoccupied
until the weekend of 25-26 April 2009. One neighbour recalls the
flat being occupied for a period: Mr Daniel Revell, who lives
further down The Chenies, says (p127B):
"I did not see anyone who lived at number 3
but I did see someone in the flat. I would qualify this by saying
that I could see lights on and even the lights of a television
being watched. All of the above incidents happened in the first
few months of us moving into the flat, which was in December 2005.
I cannot recall exactly when the net curtains came down but it
was about 2 years ago [statement made 18 July 2009]. From that
point the flat has stood empty and you could see a light was on
in the hall but the flat was bare."
60. Ms Yvonne Adams, who lives across the staircase
from Lady Uddin's flat, recalls six-weekly brief visits (p128A):
"The only movement in flat 3 was when a group
of five or six Indians, they looked like a family, went in to
air the place. They opened the back window and doors, they put
the curtains at the back of the flat out of the window, that's
why it was obvious they were airing the place. The balcony out
the back of my flat is only about 10 feet from the balcony at
the back of flat 3, so I could see it clearly. These five or six
Indians only stayed for ten or fifteen minutes. I may have seen
them in passing coming in through the communal door. This event
only occurred approximately every six weeks. It was always at
a weekend, during the day time, but I can't remember what part
of the day.
Flat 3 had curtains at the back of the flat. They
were always drawn, day and night. I love my balcony because it
overlooks a nature reserve to the rear of The Chenies. Every time
I looked over to flat 3's balcony all I could see was leaves.
I also remember a jumper overhanging their balcony. After a while
algae started to form on the jumper, it all went green.
I can't emphasise enough I am 100% certain no one
has ever lived in flat 3."
61. Mr Matthew Hollis, who lives above Lady Uddin's
flat, says that her flat was unoccupied (p121K):
"Flat 3 is directly below my flat. There is
without question no one who has lived in number 3 until the last
two of three months [statement made 2 July 2009]
the last two or three months I heard absolutely nothing in the
flat below - guaranteed. I never heard or saw anybody connected
to flat 3. In fact about a year ago I had some washing drying
over the balcony. It fell off and landed on Lady Uddin's balcony.
I totally forgot about it. I thought about hooking it up but in
the end forgot about it."
62. Ms Sarah Dunn, who lives above Ms Adams, recalls
the incident (p121A):
"I remember an incident probably last summer
where the people at flat 5 hung some washing on their balcony
and at some point some of the washing blew off ... a couple of
long sleeve tops or shirts had fallen onto the balcony of number
3. These shirts remained there for months and in fact long enough
for the shirt to have gone green and mouldy."
63. As does Ms Anne Manning, a resident in Chancery
Lane adjacent to The Chenies, (p124H):
"But up to the last few weeks (about May 2009),
we saw no activity on the middle balcony - that is in strict contrast
to the balcony above and patio below and many of the other balconies
to the rear of The Chenies. The balcony of the middle flat nearest
to us for many months had what looked like an old sweater hanging
over the balcony. It sort of irritated me because I kept thinking
why doesn't someone take it in. Since about May 2009 it has disappeared."
64. Mr Moshahidur Rahman, the brother of a friend
of Lady Uddin's, a local resident and the person from whom Lady
Uddin told us that she sought help when her boiler was broken
(Q192), said to the Sunday Times that he thought Lady Uddin
lived in London always and had never met her (p85L; 86A).
65. Lady Uddin invites us to take no account of these
statements on the grounds noted above (paragraph 54 above; Q160)
and on the further ground that the variety in the accounts is
in fact consistent with weekend occupation (Q161).
66. The police obtained Lady Uddin's water and electricity
accounts and those of neighbours for comparison. As Lady Uddin
says, it would be unfair to compare the consumption of a full-time
Chenies resident with that of a person usually in London when
the House of Lords was sitting. It is however fair to consider
whether Lady Uddin's use of water and electricity is consistent
with the pattern of weekend occupation she asserts.
67. EDF Energy calculate, from readings of a meter
in a communal cupboard, that Lady Uddin's flat used about 3.29
kWh a day. A standard consumer uses 9kWh a day (p146K). Some appliances
use electricity whether or not a flat is occupied: a fridge is
a good example. A 100 watt incandescent bulb uses 2.4 kWh of electricity
if alight all day. The usage in Lady Uddin's flat is consistent
with a flat lightly occupied at weekends or with an unoccupied
flat illuminated on a timer for part of each day.
68. Lady Uddin's flat has a water meter fixed to
the supply. Water bills exhibited by other residents in the block
suggest that South East Water provide the supply and Southern
Water the drainage (Q138). Lady Uddin claimed that she was simultaneously
billed by South East Water, Southern Water and a third company,
Mid Kent Water (Q126; 133). Mid Kent Water merged with South East
Water in December 2007:
the two companies did not simultaneously supply water or drainage
to the same households. South East Water calculate, from readings
of the meter in the street, that flat 3 used the following volumes
of water (p148D):
|Usage in period
|Approximate average usage per month
|Meter reading date
|1 August 2005
|0.45m3 or 450 litres
|20 June 2006
|0.17m3 or 17 litres
|13 December 2006
|0.38m3 or 38 litres
|23 August 2007
|0m3 or 0 litres
|11 December 2007
|0m3 or 0 litres
|9 June 2008
|0.83m3 or 83 litres
|10 December 2008
|0m3 or 0 litres
|13 February 2009
69. South East Water estimate that an average person
uses 84m3 a year (230 litres a day) and a low usage
person 39m3 a year (p148J). An average person occupying
a flat on their own each weekend would thus use 1.84m3
of water a month and a low usage person 0.85m3 a month.
Lady Uddin's metered usage is less than this in each period. South
East Water replaced the meter on 13 February 2009 because they
suspected that it had stopped working (p148H).
70. Lady Uddin invites us to take no account of the
metered water usage on three grounds. First, that the companies'
billing was chaotic, mistaken and by three companies (Q126). Secondly
that the meter was broken (Q140). Last that it accurately reflects
weekend usage (Q126; 131).
Travel by car from and to Maidstone
71. Lady Uddin claimed the mileage allowance for
weekly journeys by car from and to Maidstone every weekend when
the House was sitting with the exceptions noted at paragraph 56.
The claimed days of travel to Maidstone were usually Friday or
Saturday; the return to London was usually on Sunday. She told
us that she made these journeys (Q51) on the days stated on her
claim forms (QQ49-50).
72. From 17 September 2003 to 31 May 2008, Lady Uddin's
car was a Honda CR-V Auto SE Sport; thereafter it was a BMW X5
3.01 SE Auto (p153K). There are pictures of both of these "sport
utility vehicles" at (p154A): they are large cars (Q249).
Lady Uddin told us that she might arrive late on a Friday night
and leave early on a Saturday morning (Q144) (the latter despite
her claim forms indicating return on Sundays); that she might
go away from the flat (including returning to London) in the course
of a weekend's residence at Maidstone (QQ100; 108); that she parked
either in her designated parking bay or on the street if her bay
was occupied by someone else (Q288; 246); and that she had her
parking permit for her numbered bay, bay 8 (QQ254-6).
73. Each flat in The Chenies has a numbered parking
bay. In June 2006, the managing agents, Countrywide Property Management,
sent numbered permits to the residents but sent the wrong permit
to each resident (p132). Lady Uddin was sent the permit intended
for flat X (bay 3) but the occupant of that flat, Mr Daniel Revell,
said in his statement that she did not pass it on to him. He was
initially reluctant to use his rightful bay given that someone
else (i.e. Lady Uddin) was in possession of the permit but, on
seeing that the bay was not being used, he started to use it (p120C):
"The company sent out permits which we were
supposed to display in the car windscreen but unfortunately they
sent the permit for bay 3 to flat 3 and likewise for the rest.
I gave the permit that I received for bay 7 to the resident in
flat 19 but I never received our one back from flat 3."
74. The correct bay for Lady Uddin's flat was bay
8 (Q254). Lady Uddin's neighbours state that that bay was used
regularly by another resident of The Chenies. An anonymous resident
of The Chenies, who received the permit intended for Lady Uddin,
said in her statement (as summarised by the police) (p131E):
"That they received by mistake a car parking
permit from the site's Management Company, which related to a
parking space allocated to Lady Uddin. They received their correct
permit from another resident, but were unable to pass on Lady
Uddin's permit to her as they could not get any answer from repeated
visits to Lady's property. Furthermore this same witness noting
that Lady Uddin's car parking space was not being used instructed
her lodger to make use of it. This arrangement continued until
the media attention started, after which a black BMW X5 started
75. Mr Ian Allcock confirmed this (p123H):
"As far as I am aware all the residents use
the correct bays except Peter who lives in no. XX who doesn't
own a car and a young girl who lives in or associates with the
woman in flat XX, she parks her car in the bay that is allocated
to flat 3."
76. Lady Uddin did not recall this confusion (QQ255-6).
77. Mr Allcock saw the BMW at about the time the
story broke: it blocked the car park; over the next few weekends,
it would "turn up on a Friday night or Saturday, unload some
items, then leave" (p124B). Ms Sarah Dunn said (p121D):
"Since this appeared in the papers I can recall
that on a Sunday night my husband and I were returning home and
saw a tall Asian man standing in the car park smoking a cigarette..
We had driven past him to park further along the car park and
as we came back to the communal entrance door, I saw that he let
himself in with a key. We followed him in and as he appeared out
of place and I had not seen him before, I actually watched where
he went. I saw him go into number 3... I remember seeing a large
black car in the car park and it had tinted windows. I have never
seen this car before this night. I don't know the make but the
closest comparison I can give is that it is the size and shape
of a Range Rover. I thought it was a strange car to be connected
to these flats as most people here are usually 2 or 3 people per
flat as they all have 2 bedroom flats and this car was a large
78. The neighbours' statements are consistent that
Lady Uddin's car was not seen in The Chenies until the weekend
of 25-6 April 2009, though not all of the statements mention the
79. A neighbour of Lady Uddin's in London said to
a journalist from the Sunday Times that the BMW was visibly
in London at the weekends, though it is unclear to what period
he was referring (p90F).
Period 3: Maidstone after Lady Uddin became aware
of the Sunday Times' interest: 25 April 2009 to 31 December 2009
80. Lady Uddin told us that her conduct in relation
to the flat did not change in the light of the Sunday Times'
interest in the property (Q158), though she herself presented
us with photographic evidence that she had recently increased
the furnishing of the flat (p196H).
81. Lady Uddin's neighbours at Maidstone say in their
statements to the police that there was a change. Ms Yvonne Adams,
who lives across the staircase from Lady Uddin's flat, says (p128G):
"Things all changed the Friday before the article
came out in The Sunday Times. I didn't see anybody but a mat appeared
outside flat 3's door, net curtains were hung at the front window
and I heard a lot of activity in the flat. It seemed to me that
someone was moving in and at this time I had no idea that a newspaper
article was going to be published. Although I heard noises I never
smelt anything like cooking."
82. The occupants of the flats above and below Lady
Uddin's made similar statements. Mr Matthew Hollis, who lives
above, said (pp121K-122D):
"Flat 3 is directly below my flat. There is
without question no one who has lived in number 3 until the last
few months [statement made 2 July 2009]. I know this because I
have heard someone in flat 3 late on Friday nights in the last
two or three months. The floors here are so thin I can hear them
banging around. In fact the first couple of times I heard them
in there recently I thought about phoning the police. Over the
last couple of months I have heard them leave on Saturday morning
about 9 or 10am
I have seen the BMW X5 on most Fridays in the last
two or three months and once I saw a Transit van on a Saturday
morning unloading a load of furniture. I heard the furniture being
taken into Flat 3. I heard all the furniture banging very clearly."
83. Ms Angela Storey, who lives below, said (p130J):
"I should also mention that in May sometime,
just after the story broke, I was lying in bed when I noticed
a lot of noise coming from upstairs. I couldn't tell if it was
coming from flat 4 or flat 3 but the walls are very thin and you
could tell it was coming from upstairs. I would describe the noise
as someone picking up and dropping stuff and the sounds of moving
stuff around. I spoke to a neighbour Penny a couple of days later
and she mentioned to me that flat 3 had curtains up and looked
like someone had moved in. I had noticed that a door mat had appeared
outside flat 3."
84. Lady Uddin invited us to take no account of these
statements on the ground that each witness was biased against
her due to having been asked leading questions by journalists
and by having seen the adverse publicity she had received in the
press (QQ150; 157; 160; 200; 201; 212; pp200L; 203F).
85. Mr and Lady Uddin have lived at XXXXXXXXXX, Wapping,
London E1W XXX since 1993. It is a three-bedroom house rented
by Mr Uddin from a housing association (QQ9-13) and occupied by
him, their younger children and Lady Uddin. Throughout the period
under investigation, Lady Uddin stayed in this property during
the week and had childcare responsibilities (Q219). She claimed
that it had not been her home since 2001 (Q280) but also referred
to it as such (Q122). Mr Komar Uddin and Mrs P M Uddin have paid
full council tax on the property since 14 July 1993 (p153B). XXXX.
Lady Uddin said that she did not have neighbourly friendships
in London (Q112). Sunday Times journalists interviewed
at least two of Lady Uddin's neighbours in London, both of whom
appeared to have had some knowledge of and contact with Lady Uddin
and her family (pp89B-93F).
86. This case raises three issues: 1) whether Lady
Uddin's designated main residences in the period under investigation
met the criteria endorsed by the House Committee for these investigations;
2) whether Lady Uddin correctly claimed for travel from and to
those main residences; and 3) if the facts identify one or more
wrongly designated main residences, whether Lady Uddin acted in
good faith in making her designations and claims for night subsistence
Issue 1: whether Lady Uddin's designated main
residences in the period under investigation met the criteria
endorsed by the House Committee
87. On 26 January 2010, the House Committee endorsed
the Clerk of the Parliaments' approach to determining allegations
about members use of the members' reimbursement scheme, as recorded
in the published extract of the minutes of that meeting (p16E):
"He [the Clerk of the Parliaments] emphasised
that he was operating under the current scheme, one of the weaknesses
of which was that there was no clear definition of a main residence.
He had however taken the view, within the context of the individual
assessment of each case, that there needed to be a minimum threshold
beyond which it would be inappropriate for a Member to designate
a property as a main or only residence, and consequently claim
overnight subsistence when staying in London.
He sought the endorsement of the Committee of the
criteria which he was incorporating into his assessment of cases
where frequency of visits was an issue: i.e. that the main residence
had to be visited for a minimum of one weekend per month over
the year when the House was sitting and for periods during recesses.
These factors would be taken into account, along with other evidence,
when assessing the validity of the designation of a main residence.
He drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that it was
probable that more stringent requirements would be a feature of
the new scheme for Members' expenses.
He also raised the issue of whether a property that
was occupied by a relative other than a spouse or partner could
in any circumstances be designated as a main residence under the
current scheme. It was felt that this could in very specific circumstances
be appropriate, subject to the thresholds established and depending
on the detail of the Member's connection with the property, including
relevant financial responsibilities."
88. We consider the criteria endorsed by the House
Committee to be binding on us: it is the principal domestic committee
of the House and explicitly responsible for the members' reimbursement
89. "Visit" is used in the criteria
in the context of "weekend". We consider that "visit"
must include an overnight stay. We also consider that "one
weekend per month" is not a minimum threshold set by the
House Committee, but the minimum frequency of occupation when
the House was sitting subject to "other evidence". It
is a necessary but not sufficient criterion. In the case of a
property occupied by a relative other than a spouse or partner,
"very specific circumstances" are required, "subject
to the thresholds established and depending on the detail of the
Member's connection with the property, including relevant financial
90. The Committee for Privileges' and our own report
on Lord Clarke of Hampstead's use of the members' reimbursement
scheme, agreed to by the House on 6 April 2010, is also relevant.
In that report, we found that:
"17. It is clear to us that a member may only
claim under the scheme i) if they have stayed overnight away from
their main residence; and ii) they have attended the House. There
is no ambiguity about these conditions ...
23. Our interpretation of the resolution, General
Guide and Quick Guide taken together is that a member who maintained
a residence in London for the purpose of attending the House could
reasonably claim that the night subsistence provision was a flat
rate allowance intended to reimburse the member for the costs
of maintaining such a residence (General Guide paragraph
4.4.2). A member who did not maintain a residence in London was
however entitled only to claim for the recovery of actual expenses
(General Guide paragraph 4.4.1). The former is no longer
the case as the word "allowance" was removed from the
guidance in April 2009."
91. The report from the Committee for Privileges
was agreed to by the House and is binding.
92. In the period since the House Committee endorsed
the criteria for determining a main residence for the purpose
of these investigations, the Clerk of the Parliaments has determined
a number of complaints raising similar questions (pp17-23) and
a further number of media allegations against members who were
not subsequently complained about. These decided cases do not
however form any precedent. Each of the Clerk's published reports
constitutes the application to specific circumstances of the criteria
endorsed by the House Committee: the questions the Clerk faced
when deciding the cases he did, and the questions we face in deciding
this case, are questions of fact. They establish no principle,
rule or threshold. The Clerk's several decisions are thus not
statements of precedent and they do not bind us as we determine
the facts of this case. We have proceeded on the basis that we
may take into account any fact relevant to the circumstances,
even if the Clerk did not take such a fact into account in the
cases he decided.
Opinion of the Sub-Committee
Period 1: Frinton: 3 May 2005 to 31 July 2005
93. The criteria endorsed by the House Committee
require that a main residence be visited a minimum of one weekend
per month over the year when the House was sitting and for periods
during recesses. In the case of a property occupied by a relative
other than a spouse or partner, "very specific circumstances"
are also required, "subject to the thresholds established
and depending on the detail of the Member's connection with the
property, including relevant financial responsibilities".
Frequency of visit
94. We have little evidence in relation to the short
period which we may examine during which the Frinton property
was Lady Uddin's designated main residence. For want of evidence,
we make no finding as to precisely how frequently Lady Uddin stayed
overnight at the Frinton property but, on the balance of probabilities,
taking into account our findings below as to Lady Uddin's credibility
as a witness, it was not as frequently as almost every weekend
when the House was sitting from 2001 to 2005.
95. Frequency of visit is however not the only criterion
relevant here. In the case of a property occupied by a relative
other than a spouse or partner, the House Committee set additional
"[designation of a property occupied by a relative
other than a spouse or partner] could in very specific circumstances
be appropriate, subject to the thresholds established and depending
on the detail of the Member's connection with the property, including
relevant financial responsibilities".
Thus, frequency of visit remains essential but there
is i) a further dominant criterion: "the detail of the Member's
connection with the property, including relevant financial responsibilities";
and ii) a subordinate criterion: "very specific circumstances".
"Very specific circumstances" and "connection
with the property"
96. The criteria endorsed by the House Committee
provide no guidance as to what constitute "very specific
circumstances" and a sufficient "connection with the
property" for it appropriately to be designated as a member's
main residence. We thus have to establish our own criteria to
decide those facts.
97. In terms of "very specific circumstances",
we consider that XXXXXXX is a legitimate circumstance in which
a person might designate a family member's home as her main residence.
In our opinion, the circumstances of Lady Uddin's designation
of her brother's property as her main residence might meet the
very specific circumstances required under the test endorsed by
the House Committee.
98. There is however one further, dominant, limb
of the test to consider: connection with the property. In terms
of this limb of the test, we consider that the connection must
be such to find that, irrespective of occupation by a relative
other than a spouse or partner, the property was Lady Uddin's
"main residence" within any natural meaning of those
two words taken together. We accept that "main residence"
is not defined either in the resolution establishing, or in the
guidance on, the members' reimbursement scheme. The consequence
is that it would be unreasonable retrospectively to apply a single
definition. It does not mean however that a designation which
defies any natural meaning of those words may be allowed.
99. The connection would certainly be sufficient
if, in circumstances of XXXXX XXXXX, the claimant had moved XXXX
and into the designated property. That is not here the case. Lady
Uddin needed what she described as a "bolt hole" for
breathing space but continued to live in the family home for the
working week throughout the year. She may have stayed at the Frinton
property on occasional weekends or more frequently. We accept
that the Frinton property was of great value to her as a "bolt
hole". Due however to her return on each occasion to her
children and husband in the week, we do not accept that the property
ever acquired the character of a main residence for the purpose
of the members' reimbursement scheme. Although Lady Uddin claimed
to have led two separate lives, in practice her behaviour was
insufficient to validate that claim. We find that Lady Uddin's
connection with the Frinton property was insufficient for it to
meet any natural meaning of "main residence" for the
purpose of the members' reimbursement scheme.
100. We thus conclude that Lady Uddin did not
have a sufficient connection with the Frinton property to have
designated it as her main residence given her brother's ownership
and permanent occupation of the property. She was therefore wrong
to have designated it as her main residence for the purpose of
the members' reimbursement scheme and to have claimed night subsistence
away from it.
Period 2: Maidstone before Lady Uddin became aware
of the Sunday Times' interest: 1 August 2005 to 24 April 2009
101. It is clear that Lady Uddin owns and is financially
responsible for the Maidstone property. In these circumstances,
the criteria endorsed by the House Committee, and by which we
are bound, are as follows (p16G):
"the main residence had to be visited for a
minimum of one weekend per month over the year when the House
was sitting and for periods during recesses. These factors would
be taken into account, along with other evidence, when assessing
the validity of the designation of a main residence."
102. Lady Uddin claimed to have stayed overnight
at Maidstone almost every weekend when the house was sitting.
The statements made to the police say otherwise without exception.
On which account should we rely?
103. We accept Lady Uddin's account of the circumstances
of her marriage. We have however some difficulty with Lady Uddin's
account of the facts of her occupation of her designated main
residences. First, she was reluctant to answer specifically the
written questions put to her by the Registrar (pp63B-64C) and
to discuss her case with the police (p161K). Secondly, in oral
evidence, she was at times evasive (QQ94-7; 116-20; 299-301) and
at others her account was inconsistent (QQ129, 254-5; QQ126-41;
Q216, p200J; Q242, p56B) to the point of contradiction (QQ70-1,
206, p200J; Q144, pp26-9). She provided several further significant
details as footnote corrections to her evidence (QQ79; 96; 122;
152; 205). Nor do we accept her reasons for why we should take
no account of the witness statements given to the police. First,
the witnesses are clear that the flat was unfurnished, not that
it was lightly furnished. As to Lady Uddin's contention that it
is not possible to see into her flat from the street, we consider
that it would be possible to see into her flat if illuminated
at night and without curtains. Secondly, as to Lady Uddin's contention
that the witnesses were biased in their statements to the police
due to their having earlier been asked leading questions by journalists
and by having seen the press coverage, we consider that neither
factor was sufficient to prejudice the witnesses to the point
that each was prepared to lie to the police. The neighbours' accounts
in their interviews with the Sunday Times are consistent
with each other and consistent with their statements to the police.
The neighbours were interviewed by the Sunday Times journalists
before the newspaper published its allegation.
104. We have however considered carefully what weight
we should attach to the witness statements given to the police.
Each of the statements by Lady Uddin's neighbours, the plumber
and the utilities companies was given to the police under the
formula "this statement is true to the best of my knowledge
and belief and I make it knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence,
I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated anything
in it which I know to be false or do not believe to be true"
(p103B). Nonetheless, we are conscious that we have not examined
these witnesses ourselves and so have not been able to form judgments
as to their individual credibility. We consider that, in view
of their number, we can rely on the essence of these witness statements
taken as a whole. We consider that the statements to the police
about the furnishing of Lady Uddin's flat, her water usage, and
her and her car's visibility at Maidstone together prove, well
beyond the balance of probabilities, that Lady Uddin in this period
did not stay at the Maidstone property for the minimum of one
weekend per month over the year when the House was sitting. We
find that Lady Uddin deliberately misled us as to the frequency
of her stays at Maidstone.
105. Lady Uddin was wrong to have designated the
Maidstone property as her main residence for the purpose of the
members' reimbursement scheme and to have claimed night subsistence
away from that property in the period 1 August 2005 to 24 April
Period 3: Maidstone after Lady Uddin became aware
of the Sunday Times' interest: 25 April 2009 to 31 December 2009
106. Lady Uddin became aware of the Sunday Times'
interest in her Maidstone property on 24 April. We accept that,
from this point, there is third-party evidence of her having stayed
overnight in the Maidstone property at least one weekend a month.
We find that, in this period, Lady Uddin met the minimum frequency
of occupation required under the criteria endorsed by the House
107. While frequency of occupation is a necessary
criterion, even in these circumstances it is not a sufficient
criterion: "other evidence" is also to be taken into
account (p16G). We are entitled to consider whether the Maidstone
property became Lady Uddin's main residence on 25 April 2009 or
whether, due to other evidence, her main residence in fact remained
elsewhere. Despite XXXXXXX XXXX, Lady Uddin's life in the
week has always remained at her London residence where her younger
children and husband live; and her London residence again became
her main residence on 1 January 2010. We find that Lady Uddin's
presence at Maidstone increased from 25 April 2009 only in an
attempt to suggest that the property was and had been her main
residence since August 2005. We find that, despite Lady Uddin's
presence, the Maidstone property did not acquire the character
of a main residence within any natural meaning of the words. Lady
Uddin remained wrong to have claimed night subsistence away from
the Maidstone property in the period 25 April 2009 to 31 December
108. With the assistance of the Finance Department,
we have calculated that Lady Uddin wrongly claimed £121,139.50
in night subsistence over the three periods. Lady Uddin should
be required to repay this amount.
Issue 2: whether Lady Uddin should have claimed
for travel from and to her main residences
109. Lady Uddin should not have designated either
the Frinton or the Maidstone property as her main residence. Claims
for travel may only be made for journeys made between a main residence
and Westminster in respect of parliamentary duties (pp6K; 15B).
As neither the Frinton property nor the Maidstone property
was Lady Uddin's main residence, she was not eligible to claim
for travel from and to either Frinton or Maidstone. We do
not need to find precisely how many of the journeys she in fact
110. With the assistance of the Finance Department,
we have calculated that Lady Uddin wrongly claimed £4,209.60
under the mileage allowance for journeys by car over the period.
Lady Uddin should be required to repay this amount.
Issue 3: if the facts identify one or more
wrongly designated main residences, whether Lady Uddin acted in
good faith in making her designations and claims
111. Having found that Lady Uddin wrongly designated
the Frinton and Maidstone properties as her main residences and
that she made claims for night subsistence and travel to which
she was not entitled, we now turn to the issue of good faith.
If Lady Uddin did not act in good faith when making her designations
and claims for night subsistence and travel, then she is liable
to sanction. If however Lady Uddin had good reason to believe
that her designations and claims were valid, sanction might be
112. We look separately at her understanding of the
scheme, designations and claims for night subsistence; and then
her claims for travel.
Understanding of the scheme, designations and
claims for night subsistence
113. Lady Uddin maintained to us that she had not
broken the rules of the scheme (Q234) but had acted in good faith
throughout (p61E) and that both the Frinton and Maidstone properties
had validly been her main residences for the purpose of the scheme
114. In testing Lady Uddin's good faith, we are not
assessing her conduct against the criteria endorsed by the House
Committee but against any natural understanding of the scheme
and "main residence" that might be held by a reasonable
person. This is because the criteria endorsed by the House Committee
were not designed retrospectively to define "main residence"
for the purpose of the scheme but were designed only as criteria
to be applied to the retrospective examination of certain members'
115. Lady Uddin's understanding of the scheme was
that she could designate as her main residence anywhere where
she was staying at weekends if it could be considered her home
(QQ225; 301). If one had more than one residence, it was a question
of election: "main" had no meaning (QQ284-5). The
clear purpose of the scheme is the recovery of expenses necessarily
incurred in attending the House when away from one's "main
residence" on any natural meaning of those words. Lady Uddin's
understanding of the scheme defeats its objective and her understanding
of "main residence" is unreasonable.
116. Lady Uddin says that she came to this understanding
on advice from her Chief Whip (Lord Carter), mentor (Lady Pitkeathley)
and other members. Before designating the Frinton property as
her main residence, Lady Uddin says that she described the circumstances
of XXXXXXXX to her Chief Whip and others; told them that the property
was her brother's home; that she was staying there at weekends;
and that she was "spending money" (QQ222; 226; 230).
Lady Uddin says: "It was made clear to me by my Chief Whip
and my colleagues that if I was staying at weekends in a place
that could be determined to be my home that I was able to then
claim overnight subsistence" (Q225). "I was guided to
designate the place where I was at the weekends and that this
was acceptable within the rules" (Q230). Lord Carter is deceased
and Lady Pitkeathley does not recall discussing the rules of the
members' reimbursement scheme or her domestic arrangements in
any detail with Lady Uddin (p164D).
117. This advice, if received, mitigates Lady
Uddin's understanding of the scheme for the same reason that it
helped to mitigate part of the conduct of Lord Clarke of Hampstead,
but it does not obviate her lack of good faith for two reasons.
First, she accepted that it remained her own responsibility to
make her designation and claims in accordance with the rules (Q236).
Secondly, Lady Uddin's actual circumstances did not meet her own
understanding of the scheme. On the original day of designation,
she may have had the intention of living two separate lives, weekday
and weekend each week (Q233-7), but the facts in relation to her
occupation of both properties do not meet even her own understanding
of the rules. She was not at Frinton every weekend and it did
not become her home. It should quickly have become clear to her
that she was not staying at Maidstone at weekends. It should also
have been clear to her that, in those circumstances, she was not
making her claims for night subsistence when away from her designated
main residence in good faith; and that the continued designation
had become a deliberate misrepresentation of her position even
on the basis of her understanding of the scheme.
Claims for travel
118. Lady Uddin claimed the mileage allowance for
journeys by car from and to both of her successively designated
main residences almost every weekend when the House was sitting.
In oral evidence, she confirmed that she had made each of these
journeys. In relation to Frinton, we have decided not to find
precisely how often Lady Uddin travelled to the property but have
found that it was not as frequently as almost every weekend when
the House was sitting (paragraph 94 above). In relation to Maidstone,
we have found that she travelled to the property less than once
a month (paragraph 104 above).
119. We find that the vast majority of Lady Uddin's
claims for journeys in the period under investigation were not
made in good faith and that Lady Uddin made these claims with
the intention of adding verisimilitude to her designation of her
120. We find that Lady Uddin did not act in good
faith in making her claims for night subsistence away from the
Frinton and Maidstone properties; in maintaining her designation
of each of those properties as her main residences; and in claiming
the mileage allowance for weekly journeys by car from and to the
121. We have found that, despite difficult personal
circumstances which might have legitimised the intention underlying
her original designations, the facts of Lady Uddin's occupation
of her designated main residences both in Frinton and in Maidstone
did not in fact meet the criteria endorsed by the House Committee.
Lady Uddin deliberately misrepresented her living arrangements
to take advantage of the night subsistence and travel elements
of the members' reimbursement scheme, a scheme designed for the
recovery of expenses necessarily incurred in attending the House.
There is every indication that this misrepresentation started
before 2005 and would have continued beyond 2009 had she not been
122. Lady Uddin maintained throughout that she had
acted in good faith; so she has not yet either repaid money or
apologised. The day before we heard evidence from Lady Uddin,
she wrote to us to reiterate that she had acted on advice and
complied with the rules. She went on to say that, despite this
compliance, she "should have maintained a higher standard"
and volunteered a payment of £5,500 "in recompense"
(p67E). The sum is slightly more than she claimed for travel but
was not meant to represent a sum wrongly claimed (QQ302-6). Lady
Uddin wrongly claimed £125,349.10.
123. We recommend that the House sanction Lady
Uddin by requiring her to make a personal statement of apology
to the House and thereafter suspending her from the service of
the House for three years or until she has repaid the sum of £125,349.10
wrongly claimed, whichever is the later. Her apology must be unconditional,
and agreed in advance with the Chairman of the Sub-Committee,
to be sufficient. We consider that the suspension should be renewed
in the next Parliament if Lady Uddin has not repaid the money
by the end of the current Parliament, but that can only be a matter
for the next Parliament.
10 The Code of Conduct: procedure for considering
complaints against Members, 4th Report from the Committee
for Privileges, session 2007-08, HL Paper 205, paragraph 11 bullet
2. Report agreed to by the House on 18 December 2008. Hereafter
referred to as "the report on procedure". Back
In the last Parliament, the Sub-Committee was styled the Sub-Committee
on Lords' Interests; it is now styled the Sub-Committee on Lords'
The references in this report to the printed evidence are in
the form "p16E" and "Q114". The former refers
to page 16 of the printed evidence at letter E; the latter to
question number 114 in the transcript of oral evidence. Back
Report on procedure paragraph 11 bullet 2: "Matters relating
to the Members' Reimbursement Allowance Scheme are the responsibility
of the Clerk of the Parliaments, as Accounting Officer for the
House of Lords. In exceptional circumstances he may request the
Sub-Committee to assist him in investigating a complex or serious
House of Lords Code of Conduct, adopted on Monday 2 July 2001
paragraph 19(e): "If after the investigation the Sub-Committee
finds the allegation proved, the Member complained against has
a right of appeal to the Committee for Privileges"; the report
on procedure paragraphs 32-37 sets out the appeal procedure. Back
Lady Uddin told us that, in the light of the allegation, she
referred herself for investigation (pp60C; 66D) but there is no
record of such a reference. Back
Report on procedure, paragraph 11 bullet 4. Back
Report from the Committee for Privileges on the procedure for
considering complaints against Members (4th Report 2007-08 HL
Paper 205) paragraph 11; see also paragraph 5 of this report. Back
The amounts paid to all members each financial year under each
head of the members' reimbursement scheme since April 2001 are
published on the Parliament website. The House of Lords Finance
Department has retained the amounts paid each month to members
under each head since April 2003 and has retained claim forms
since March 2006; all members' earlier claim forms have been disposed
of in accordance with the department's disposal policy. Back
The Sunday Times also supplied the Sub-Committee
with the recordings on which their transcripts were based. We
did not rely on the newspaper's transcripts but commissioned our
own. Those published as evidence were either corrected or created
by the clerks. We did not receive the recording of one interview:
the printed transcript of that interview is marked as unverified.
A journalist also appears to have interviewed Lady Uddin at least
once by telephone (Q37) but we were not provided with any record
of any such conversation. Back
Report on procedure, paragraph 25. Back
Report on procedure, paragraphs 26 to 28. Back
Until April 2009, the guide was entitled "Members' reimbursement
allowance scheme general guide". Back
HL Deb 26 July 1979 col 1135-37. Back
Financial Support for Members of the House: Declaration of
Principal Residence and Publication, 3rd Report from the House
Committee session 2009-10 HL Paper 89. Report agreed to by the
House on 22 March 2010. Back
The relevant record has been disposed of in accordance with the
Finance Department's disposal policy. Back
Ms Yvonne Adams, who lives across the staircase from Lady Uddin's
flat, also claims to have bought the show flat (p127J). Back
The same is true of the journeys on 15 and 22 July 2007 and certain
of those made in March, April, October and November 2009. Back
See, for example, the South East Water Limited annual report
and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2008. Back
The conduct of Lord Clarke of Hampstead, 4th Report from
the Committee for Privileges, session 2009-10, HL Paper 112, paragraphs
26 to 32. Back
The conduct of Lord Clarke of Hampstead, 4th Report from
the Committee for Privileges, session 2009-10, HL Paper 112, paragraphs
26 to 32. Back