- Baroness Uddin owns three properties with her husband but says she is 'too poor' to repay money
- Peer had 'never been seen' at main home in Maidstone
- Fears she will use tax-free £300-per-day House of Lords allowance to slowly pay back £125k
UPDATED:10:05, 15 November 2011
Shamed Labour peer Baroness Uddin will be allowed to return to her seat in the House of Lords, despite failing to repay a penny of the money she was fined for cheating on her expenses.
Lady Uddin, the first female Muslim peer, was booted out of the Lords for 18 months and ordered to repay £125,000.
Despite owning three properties with her husband, she claims she is now too poor to repay the money. It has emerged the Lords authorities are powerless to prevent Lady Uddin, whose suspension ends in April, from returning.
A ruling by the committee for privileges and conduct in the Lords says that it would be illegal to make her return conditional on the repayment of the money.
Lady Uddin was exposed as a cheat in May 2009 after it was reported that she had never been seen at her designated ‘main home’ in Maidstone, Kent.
The small flat allowed her to claim £174 a night while she was living at her family home in Wapping, East London, provided by a housing association.
Lady Uddin has always denied wrongdoing, but an investigation by the Lords authorities found she had deliberately exploited the system to boost her income. The failure to prevent the peer returning to the Lords has angered her fellow peers.
They fear that Lady Uddin wants to use her peers’ tax-free allowance of £300 a day to gradually pay back her debts
If she attended the House of Lords frequently, she could pay back all £125,000 in three years – meaning she would end up repaying taxpayers with their own money.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott said: ‘It can’t be right to let a disgraced peer back before they have repaid their bogus expenses. If you do not pay your fines, you go to prison.’
His view is shared by a sub-committee on Lords’ conduct which has warned that she should not be allowed to come back until the money has been repaid.
Fellow expenses cheats in the Lords have either paid back the money or have vowed to do so before they return. Lord Hanningfield has promised to pay back £30,000, while fellow Conservative Lord Taylor of Warwick has paid back his full amount of £24,000.
Lady Uddin has declined to comment. When the scandal broke, she insisted that she had stayed regularly in the Kent home. The CPS said she would not face charges on the grounds it was ruled that a ‘main house’ might be visited only once a month.
Read more: Daily Mail