Peers begged for 'hardship fund' when Covid cut their allowance to £162 a dayby Oliver Milne, https://www.mirror.co.uk/authors/oliver-milne/
Lords called for Parliamentary authorities to set up a "hardship fund" after cuts to their daily expenses claims during the coronavirus.
Peers saw their tax-free bung slashed from £323 a day to £162, and only for those "actively participate" in debates, as part of the changed response to Parliament's working hours.
The move was made because Lords would be incurring fewer costs by not staying in London.
But a Freedom of Information request has revealed peers complaining about the move, as families across the country faced hardship caused by the pandemic.
The anonymous emails, released after a request by the Scottish National Party, were sent to the House of Lords Commission, the House of Lords Management Board and the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office.
Peers raised fears they would be left out of pocket on the rent for their second homes in London, and accused other Lords of rushing to cash in.
On their rent on peer said: “I would be very disappointed to give up my lease and then find things back to normal.
"Yet none of us can be sure when normal will arrive. So this is an uncomfortable financial worry. It would take an awful lot of interventions in proceedings to make a dent in a member's monthly rent.”
Another peer warned that their colleagues who abused the previous system, where Lords could be paid for turning up without contributing, would abuse the new system as well.
They wrote: "I fully accept that a small minority of peers abuse the allowance system, attending the Lords, claiming the allowance but rarely if ever contributing.
“The present system is becoming farcical as Members queue up to make short interventions because as one put it to me, ‘if you don't speak you don't eat"
One said that the system was unfair, because peers could queue to speak in a debate, but would not be paid if they didn't contribute before it ended.
The added: “This means that you can sit in front of your computer at home for the length of Question Time with a wish to speak, but should you not be reached you get zilch whilst anyone who has had a supplementary walks away with £162.
"That is plainly inequitable.”
One peer even took aim at "ignorant journalists" for writing about their expenses system - and called for all those who tried to contribute to be paid.
“Whatever snide remarks may be made by ignorant journalists, or for that matter, others who ought to know better, the system is not being abused and out of sheer fairness, and having examined the operation over recent weeks, it would surely be fair as it would be if the Chamber were open, to allow those who seek to participate, to be remunerated.”
“3 members have discussed matters with me over the last week. 2 have made it clear that they might have to resign and take up other work as the financial pinch is so horrible. Both are highly and instantly employable.
SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament Rona Mackay said: “These documents expose the total privilege and sheer arrogance of unelected Lords at Westminster.
“How dare these peers complain they aren’t paid enough when thousands of people are struggling just to make ends meet due to the financial impact of Coronavirus.
“These Lords are out of control - only Communist China has a bigger legislative body – and even more members of the privileged elite, like Baroness Ruth Davidson, will be skipping down the road to join them very shortly.
“It’s time to put the brakes on this gravy train and abolish the House of Lords for good.”
A House of Lords spokesman said: “Like everyone else, the House of Lords had to take some difficult decisions as a result of Covid-19.
"The issue of allowances is a complex matter and the Commission gave considerable thought to how to respond to this unprecedented situation, in the full knowledge that there were no easy solutions.
“The temporary allowance system that reduced allowance rates by 50% was considered appropriate for the changed circumstances where most Members were working from home. It was agreed by the House as a whole on 6 May 2020.
“The House of Lords is a highly effective and busy Chamber, performing a vital role of improving legislation and holding the Government to account.”