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Lord Paul's response to Parliamentary inquiry which called for his suspension

By Jonathan Walker on Oct 18, 10 04:11 PM in Politics

An inquiry by the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee has recommend that Lord Paul - a Labour peer with substantial business interests in the Black Country - be suspended from the House for 4 months.

He was found to have breached the rules around the designation of his main residence, and to have wrongly claimed night subsistence and travel expenses.

The Committee state that "We do not feel justified in finding, on the balance of probabilities that Lord Paul acted dishonestly or in bad faith. However his actions were utterly unreasonable, and demonstrated gross irresponsibility and negligence".

He has issued a statement in response. I'll be writing news stories for the Post & Mail but it's unlikely we'll be able to use the statement in full, as it is so long. Here it is:

Statement from Lord Paul on the publication of the Report by the House of Lords Committee for Privileges and Conduct, 18 October 2010

Honesty and integrity have been upheld

I welcome the publication of the report from the House of Lords Committee for Privileges and Conduct. First and foremost, my honesty and integrity have been upheld. I have never tried to claim anything which I did not believe I was honestly entitled to claim at the time. I am pleased that the Committee for Privileges and Conduct has come to the same conclusion and has found that my actions throughout the investigation have been transparent and consistent and that the claims were honestly made and not in bad faith.

It is worth remembering that I requested the Clerk of the Parliaments, Michael Pownall, to conduct an investigation into my expenses on 12 October 2009 - the day after the Sunday Times first published its allegations against me. I also voluntarily and immediately repaid the full amounts in question, about £40,000, which I had claimed from January 2005 to June 2006. In fact, I voluntarily repaid a greater sum than the House could have required me to pay, both in respect of night subsistence and in respect of mileage allowance. There is no question about the propriety of any other claim made by me during the 14-year period that I have been a member of the House of Lords. It should also be remembered that, back in March, the Metropolitan Police decided there was no case for me to answer.

I do not dispute the basic facts. I made claims which, with the benefit of hindsight, I should not have made. I may have been negligent, as the Committee has said, and the Commitee has accepted my apology. Before this matter was raised by a Sunday newspaper late last year, however, there was no definition in the House of Lords of residence and a large number of peers therefore fell into error when interpreting the meaning of residence in the rules. There was no guidance on the meaning of "main residence" until March 2010, and it was finally clarified in July 2010 - that is, 10 months after the allegations first appeared in the press. During the time period in question, 2005/2006, there was no definition of "main residence", nor was there even guidance.

I do not believe that either the sub-committee or the full Committee can in effect apply the perspectives and standards of 2010 to actions and rules operating in 2005. I believe that the provisions which applied then on the designation of principal residence were wholly unclear. I believe that the fact that they have been either amplified or modified since then, and finally dispensed with by the House, strongly underlines my position. Given the lack of clarity in the rules which applied at that point, I do not believe that my own conduct in any way merits the decisions which the sub-committee and now the full Committee have reached.

I am disappointed that I seem to have been treated more harshly than others. Some of those peers accused of making incorrect claims were dealt with by the Clerk of the Parliaments, some by the Privileges Committee. Some have been subject to an inquiry, some have not; some have apologised, some have not; some have voluntarily repaid the sums incorrectly claimed, some have been asked to repay those sums; now, for the first time, three peers have been suspended while others have escaped suspension.

Despite the hurt that this has caused me, I accept the Committee's decision in the best traditions of parliamentary democracy.

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Jonathan Walker

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