A senior member of the House of Lords has offered to repay up to £41,000 in expenses claimed for travel between his Brighton home and Westminster, according to a Sunday newspaper.
The Mail on Sunday said that Labour’s Chief Whip in the Lords, Lord Bassam of Brighton, claimed the travel expenses while also receiving an allowance for “staying overnight” in London.
The overnight allowance is called the Lords Office Holders Allowance and is currently capped at just over £36,000 a year.
Lord Bassam denied breaking any rules, the newspaper said today (Sunday 3 December).
But it claimed that Lord Bassam had wrongly claimed about £260,000 of this allowance since 2010.
It said that Lord Bassam – former long-serving Brighton council leader Steve Bassam – received a basic salary of about £63,500.
The newspaper said: “The expenses scandal is particularly embarrassing for (Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn) because, as Chief Whip, Bassam is in charge of maintaining discipline among Labour peers.
“Since taking that position following the 2010 general election, he has received £260,000 in LOHA (Lords Office Holders Allowance) and claimed £40,900 in travel expenses – a total of more than £300,000.
“Following this newspaper’s investigations, the peer last night admitted he was wrong to claim travel expenses – and vowed to have urgent talks with parliamentary officials about paying it back.
“He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I will not be submitting any further claims in this way. I will also discuss the steps necessary to repay previous travel claims including those made since the (2017) election.’
“Asked to justify claiming the £36,366 ‘second home’ allowance, he would only say: ‘Regarding the Office Holders Allowance, I have not been advised that any breach of the rules has taken place.’”
The newspaper also said: “If he was forced to pay back the housing allowance instead, the total would greatly exceed anything refunded by an MP in the 2009 Commons expenses scandal.”
Lord Bassam, 64, is a married father of three who served as leader of Brighton Borough Council and Brighton and Hove City Council from 1987 to 1999.
He was ennobled – appointed as a member of the House of Lords – in 1997 after Tony Blair became Labour Prime Minister.
Lord Bassam has served on the Labour front bench as a minister or whip (party manager) since 1999.
A year ago, having visited “the jungle” in Calais, where many refugees were living in chaotic conditions, Lord Bassam and his wife Jill took in a Syrian refugee at their Kemp Town home.