The House of Lords agreed a motion yesterday which ensures that Members who are found to have wrongly claimed money under the system of financial support should not be allowed to return from suspension until all outstanding amounts owed have been repaid.
The Chairman of Committee, Lord Brabazon of Tara, started the debate with an outline of the report:
'The House Committee felt it important to ensure that any Members who have not repaid the wrongly claimed money are prevented from returning to the House until they have done so. I hope that noble Lords will agree that it would be inappropriate to restore to such Members the privilege of taking part in the important work of this House and the right to claim financial support until they have settled their debts to the public purse in full.'
'Accordingly, this report proposes that any Member who is found by the House to have wrongly claimed money under the system of financial support but has not repaid all of that money by one month before the end of their suspension from the House should receive a further suspension until the money has been paid in full or until the end of the Parliament, whichever comes first. If the debt were still outstanding at the beginning of the following Parliament, then the House would be invited to approve a further suspension and so on. The suspension of an individual under these provisions would be imposed by the House agreeing a Motion in the name of the Chairman of Committees.'
The debate followed the publication of a report last week (14 December) which recommended that, if a suspended Member has not repaid money owed by one month before their suspension is due to end, the Chairman of Committees should move a motion to suspend the Member until the debt has been repaid or until the end of the current Parliament, whichever is sooner.
If a debt remains outstanding at the start of the following Parliament, the Chairman of Committees should ask the House to initiate a further suspension. This is necessary as the House of Lords does not have the power to suspend a Member beyond the end of the current Parliament.
The Committee have put forward the recommendation to assist the Clerk of the Parliaments in his responsibility to secure the repayment of wrongly claimed money. In doing so the Committee state that debt recovery through the courts is not practical as the court may well decline jurisdiction as the debt arises from proceedings of a parliamentary committee.
Read the full report
The House Committee is appointed each session to set the policy framework for the administration of the House and to provide non-executive guidance to the Management Board; to approve the House’s strategic, business and financial plans; to agree the annual Estimates and Supplementary Estimates; to supervise the arrangements relating to Members’ expenses; and to approve the House of Lords Annual Report.