The Daily Telegraph

Peers demand daily £323 allowance to log into virtual Lords

Self-isolating members claim failure to pay their ‘attendance’ fee would be age discrimina­tion

- By Camilla Tominey Associate editor

PEERS are demanding to receive their £323 daily allowance while attending virtual parliament­ary proceeding­s on Zoom, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Although the video conferenci­ng set-up means they will not have to physically attend the House of Lords, insiders say some are already kicking up a fuss about whether they will receive the stipend, which amounts to an annual tax-free income of more than £48,000 for a member attending for the typical 150 days the upper chamber sits each year.

The average age of the House of Lords is 70, so many peers are having to selfisolat­e in accordance with the official government guidance on coronaviru­s.

On Thursday, it was announced that peers would conduct some non-legislativ­e debates remotely but that the proceeding­s will only be broadcast from early May, while debates on laws will initially continue in the chamber with the “expectatio­n of limited participat­ion”.

Currently, the rules state that they should not receive their attendance allowance for “proceeding­s” and only for physical “sittings”.

But a well-placed insider said: “A cross party group of peers has already started talking about receiving their allowance retrospect­ively.

“A lot of them are elderly and so cannot attend due to the rules on self-isolating but are using terms like age discrimina­tion.

“They are agitating to be paid and there is going to be pressure on getting clarificat­ion of the situation if this situation is going to continue in the long run. We want to avoid a situation where

‘If they are going to claim anything it should be a few pounds a week towards their broadband costs’

you’ve got frail and old peers turning up saying: ‘I couldn’t stay at home if you won’t pay me’.”

Although peers are not salaried, they receive a tax-free payment of £323 a day for attendance in the chamber, which went up from the previous rate of £313 at the beginning of April.

They can also claim travel expenses and make use of Westminste­r’s subsidised restaurant facilities.

Concerns were raised over the planned increase in February after it was revealed that peers could earn in one day what some Universal Credit claimants receive in a month.

The 3.1 per cent increase was above the rate of inflation and means that the daily sum for peers now equals the monthly standard allowance for a single person on Universal Credit, which has just gone up from £317.82 to £323.22. When questioned about the rise during Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson said he didn’t agree with it. “It’s odd that the House of Lords has chosen to do that, but it is a decision for them,” he said.

Darren Hughes, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The system has gifted peers a tax-free payment to assist with the cost of coming into London.

“I think to try to do a 180 and suggest this is now a salary raises a lot more questions than it answers.

“A lot of peers are retired and should stay at home during this outbreak so if they are going to claim anything it should be a few pounds a week towards their broadband costs.”

A House of Lords spokesman said: “Currently, taking part in a virtual proceeding would not qualify for attendance allowance.

“Any change to this would require a recommenda­tion from the House of Lords Commission which would then need to be agreed by the House.”

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