A House of Lords peer claims up to £5,700 in expenses a month for walking to work from her £4.5million home which is situated just 200 yards away from Parliament.
Baroness Wilcox, a former conservative minister, has been accused of exploiting a tax-free payment of up to £300 a day which those who live in London benefit from the most. A number of other affluent peers are thought to be claiming the allowance as well, despite living in and around Westminster.
The latest revelation comes as the excesses of the upper chamber are under the spotlight following Lord Sewel’s resignation from the House after a video appeared to show him snorting cocaine with prostitutes.
The Mail Online reports: None has broken any rules – and they are otherwise unsalaried. But they stand accused of cynically exploiting a new tax-free payment of up to £300 a day that is massively weighted in favour of those based in London.
Analysis by the Daily Mail found that of the 161 members of the Lords who live in London, 124 have claimed the daily allowance this year.
The disclosures will add to calls for a shake-up of the bloated upper chamber amid allegations of widespread abuse by peers living the high life on the public purse.
Disgraced Baron Sewel – who finally quit yesterday two days after the exposure of his cocaine-fuelled sex party with two prostitutes – blew the whistle on a racket that benefits wealthy peers in London.
During a drugged-up rant, in which he mistakenly claimed the allowance was £200, he said: ‘The trouble is these f****** s**** who live in London and don’t have to pay rent. They’ve already got a house in London.
‘They get exactly the same, so it’s free money to them. I mean the lawyers, the people in the City, people like that. They’re coming in. They do f*** all work in the Lords, they’re picking up their £200.’
Previously only peers who classed their principal residence as outside London were allowed to claim an overnight allowance of £174 to cover the cost of mortgage payments, rent or a hotel.
The new allowance covers accommodation, living and staff costs for a day of ‘appropriate parliamentary work’, which can include debates, committee work and votes.
But because the £300-a-day entitlement is determined by attendance, not residence, peers who live in the capital receive the same as those who travel from afar.
London-based peers pocketed £763,350 in January and February alone. The annual bill for them could be around £3.8million.
Baroness Wilcox of Plymouth, who made her fortune in fish farming, is the peer thought to live closest to the House of Lords.
Before the 2010 expenses reforms, she said her main home was in Cornwall, which allowed her to claim up to £24,200 a year for staying in her mortgage-free home in Westminster.
She lives in a townhouse in Great College Street, about 200 yards from Parliament.
From 2001 to March 2010, she claimed more than £169,000 in overnight allowances.
Had she designated her Westminster property, she would not have been able to claim this.
In early 2010, Baroness Wilcox ‘flipped’ the designation of her main home to London. By now she had a ministerial salary and was not permitted to claim attendance expenses.
But when, in September 2012, she lost her post in a reshuffle, Baroness Wilcox began claiming the money again.
There is absolutely no suggestion she has breached any rules.
A member of her staff said: ‘I doubt she’s got anything to worry about. She is very straightforward.’
Baroness Wilcox has claimed £150 eight times – the reduced daily rate for doing parliamentary business away from Westminster.
Her neighbours said last night that she was on holiday.
Labour MP John Mann said: ‘It is a scandal as big as the MPs’ expenses scandal.
‘There is a lack of transparency, no evidence even whether these people stay around once they have signed for their money.
‘The place is mired in sleaze, people doing business deals, exploiting their position, and the abuse of expenses is just one strand of it.’
A House of Lords spokesperson said: ‘The allowance introduced in 2010 is based on attendance, not residence.