Wednesday 27th March 2024

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Balfe Portrait Lord Balfe (Con)
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I welcome this proposal, and the points I wish to make are made in a friendly manner, not a critical one. I am concerned about the interpretation of the words “similar accommodation”. I wonder whether the noble Lord the Leader of the House would consider whether a requirement that the accommodation is registered for VAT should be part of the scheme. I understand that this is fairly common within the Civil Service. I also wonder why we are reinventing a wheel and why we do not just adopt the same system as applies to Treasury officials who come to London for meetings and are part of the Home Civil Service. This seems a very easy thing to incorporate into our rules. I am concerned that the absence of any mention of VAT and the loose wording “similar accommodation” could lead to loopholes. As a person who was responsible for closing many loopholes in the European Parliament scheme, I am well aware of where loopholes can be found.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, it would be wrong of me not to comment on this, having been the Member who first raised this about a decade ago when we first raised the annual allowance. I welcome the report and the Motion in the name of the Leader of the House. I thank him personally. He may have been involved in the original scheme and the mistakes that were made then, but I welcome very much his efforts as Leader, with, I am sure, the support of the Lord Speaker and others, to make sure that this change came before the House today. It is long overdue and very welcome.

I also want to thank my noble friend Lord Foulkes. When I gave up the campaign on this issue through sheer exhaustion, he took up the cause. He deserves some credit on behalf of all of us who live outside London for making sure that this change comes forward.

The initial scheme, which was introduced in the month in which I came into this House, was wrong. In order to stop people who live in London abusing the old scheme, it has resulted in all of them receiving significant financial benefit during the last 14 years, while every Member who lives outside London and who uses overnight accommodation in London had their allowance cut in July 2010 and has suffered financially ever since.