Tower Hamlets resident Baroness Pola Uddin will reclaim her House of Lords seat despite not paying back over £125,000 in false expenses.
Uddin, 52, who lives and grew up in east London, claimed thousands in travel and overnight expenses to live full-time in her Wapping home, naming “bolt-holes” in Kent and Essex as her main residence.
The Lords’ Committee for Privileges and Conduct found claims were “made wrongly and in bad faith”, but ruled it could not legally stop her from rejoining the House.
The Labour peer fell foul of the Parliamentary expenses committee last year when it emerged that between 2005 and 2010 she named a house in Essex and later a flat in Kent as her main residence, claiming £125,349 in night subsistence and mileage allowance over those years. She was suspended from her seat in the House of Lords last October.
However, following Uddin’s appeal, the Privileges committee said the recommended repayment risked “preventing her indefinitely from returning to the House” and ruled she could return when the current parliament ends, which is expected to be in April.
According to the Committee’s report, Uddin’s brother and his family owned and lived in her Essex house. Although she had a room there, she spent little time at either residence until her activities attracted press attention. This meant the claims were made “wrongly and in bad faith”.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott, who has campaigned for reform of the Lords, told EastLondonLines: “In the real world, if you fiddle many thousands of pounds in expenses, you get the sack or go to prison.”
Emma Jones, Conservative councillor for St. Katherine’s and Wapping, called it “outrageous”, and said: “Why should somebody suspended from the legislature for fraud be given the right to act as a lawmaker, whilst making no effort to pay back the money she has obtained?”
Her refusal to repay the expenses defies the recommendations of the Privileges Sub-Committee on Lords Conduct, chaired by former M15 head Eliza Manningham-Buller. The sub-committee proposed that she be suspended for three years – or until she has repaid the claims.
In her appeal, Uddin said she cannot afford to make the repayment, even though she owns three properties with her husband. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct, which made the ruling, said making Uddin’s return to the House of Lords conditional on repayment would be illegal.
Baronness Uddin has rented her three-floor Wapping home since 1993 from Spitalfields Housing Association for £124 per week. The Housing Association provides rents as low as one-sixth of the market rate for those in need. Uddin retains ownership of the flat in Kent and also a mansion in Bangladesh.
Uddin, who was unavailable to comment, will return to parliament able to resume claiming expenses of up to £300 per day.