Lord Laird claimed £48,279 last year in expenses without making any spoken contributions in the House of Lords - and having voted just twice. it has been revealed.
More than 100 peers claimed nearly £1.3m in expenses without making any spoken contributions in the House of Lords for a year, research has shown.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) said 115 peers did not take part in a debate during the 2016-17 parliamentary session but claimed an average of £11,091.06 each, according to analysis of Lords records.
The campaign group warned that it showed the culture of “something for nothing” was growing within the Lords. The analysis also suggests more than £4m was claimed by 277 peers who spoke five times or fewer, while £7.3m was claimed by 394 peers who spoke 10 times or fewer this past year. The most active 300 peers claimed only half the expenses, “showing the size of the Lords can be cut without significantly limiting its work”, according to the ERS.
The ERS chief executive, David Hughes, criticised what he called “couch potato peers”, who were claiming expenses without doing any work. “These figures are a damning indictment of the state of the House of Lords,” he said. “There appears to be a growing ‘something for nothing’ culture in our upper house, with tidy sums being claimed by those who barely contribute.”
David Hanson, the Labour MP, said: “Whether people speak or not, the Lords as it stands is no longer fit for purpose. This highlights the fact that many people are lobby fodder.”
The Lords disputed the findings, stating that the analysis relied upon a “narrow focus” of spoken contributions. A spokesman said: “Speaking in the chamber is only one of the ways members hold the Government to account and this research ignores members’ contributions, including amending legislation, asking the Government written questions and serving on select committees – more than 320 members served on committees in the last session of Parliament – as well as work away from the chamber.”
The ERS said it had chosen not to release the names of the peers who claimed expenses but had not spoken as its aim was “to show the problem is systemic”.
Among the worst offenders was Lord Laird, who claimed £48,279 last year without making any spoken contributions in the House and voting just twice. Baron John Dunn Laird, 73, is a life peer, former PR man and a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party. In 2008/9 he became the most expensive peer in the House of Lords when he claimed parliamentary expenses of £73,000.00.
Lord Paul, who was made a life peer in 1995, claimed £38,100, equating to just over £19,000 for his two votes.
Indian-born steel magnate Baron Swraj Paul, 86, claimed £38,100 in expenses, participated in seven votes and made two spoken contributions.
Conservative Party life peer Baroness Shreela Flather, 83, the first Asian woman to receive a peerage, claimed £37,932, participated in no votes and made 21 spoken contributions.
Baroness Haleh Afshar, 73, claimed £34,966, participated in three votes and made 19 spoken contributions.
Geologist Baron Ernest Oxburgh, 82, claimed £34,029 in expenses, participated in seven votes and made seven spoken contributions.
Historian and former journalist Baron Peter Hennessy ,70, of Nympsfield claimed £32,850, participated in six votes and made 12 spoken contributions.
Retired diplomat Baron Patrick Wright of Richmond, 86, claimed £24,900, voted five times and made seven spoken contributions.
Baron Ian Blair, 64, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, claimed £24,159 in expenses, participated in six votes, and made 28 spoken contributions.