I suppose it must be handy after a hard day at the Lords to only have to travel three miles to your townhouse in London, one which you have owned for 23 years and where you are on the electoral list.
So it came as a bit of a surprise to me... well, only a very little bit of a surprise, I admit... to discover that the Noble Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, actually doesn’t count his London home as his first residence. Nope, amazingly His Lordship instead regards his first home as being in Brighton. This is even more astounding when you consider that his wife works as a community director of Battersea nursery school and that he has his company directorships listed from his Battersea address. Why, I kept on asking myself, did he then tell the House of Lords' expenses department that his main home was on the south coast of England? Then it came to me in a flash.
£140,000. That’s it. For that is what he has charged us for him to stay overnight in his own home all these years. It’s just as well we have a broad back, isn’t it? Just as well that, as a country, we have money to burn. Just as well we’re not trying to cut back on anything like benefits, pensions and Territorial Army, isn’t it? Just as well we're not looking at big redundancies in the Civil Service so that we can save money.
His Lordship says that he has done nothing wrong, don't they always? He is entitled to claim these expenses. He says that he lives in Brighton for seven months of the year and as such is allowed to claim his overnight allowances when he has to be in London. But my point is that he has had his London home for more than 20 years. The allowance is for peers to claim hotel expenses when they are overnighting in London due to Lord’s business. It was never designed so that people could charge the taxpayer for staying overnight in their own home.
The noble Baron was in the news earlier this year when it came to light that he had failed to declare £36,000 a year earnings from management consultancy with a company when dealing in the House with matters concerning their clients’ interests. He resigned from the consultancy in the aftermath of these revelations.
For some all this might be acceptable behaviour, but for a man who has spent his life as a trade unionist and a keen advocate of financial moderation, it really shows a moral compass stuck at self interest.
Shame on you, your Lordship.