This just in from the Clerk of the Parliaments, the official who has been investigating a complaint against the Liberal Democrat peer and former Chief Executive Lord Rennard.
The ruling rejects allegations that Chris Rennard claimed overnight subsistence for days that he was not present and also rejects allegations that he made claims related to having a home outside London that he wasn’t entitled to make:
In these circumstances and after due consideration, I have decided not to uphold [the] complaint: I have concluded that Lord Rennard’s claims for expenses were in accordance with the rules and guidance on Members’ expenses applicable at the time.
The key parts of the ruling state:
I should explain that claims for expenses arising from overnight subsistence can only be authorised for days on which a Member’s attendance at the House is recorded. [The] allegation that Lord Rennard did not attend on all the days for which he claimed overnight subsistence is not, therefore, well-founded; and I accordingly do not uphold this aspect of the complaint…
So far as Lord Rennard’s re-designation of his main residence in 2007 is concerned, he has explained to me that his circumstances changed in 2007 when his wife took early retirement and he made significant changes to his lifestyle. He bought a flat in Eastbourne in October 2007 and registered this as his main residence with the House of Lords’ Finance Department.
Taking up some of the detailed points which you made, he has explained to me that he and his wife are on the electoral register for both residences and that they had voted in Eastbourne in the recent European and County Council elections … He explained that he is … actively involved with the local party in Eastbourne. He stressed too that he and his wife pay council tax for the Eastbourne property.
I have also reviewed some of Lord Rennard’s recent claim forms. These confirm that he travels to and from his Eastbourne address quite regularly at weekends (perhaps two out of three). He indicated that he normally resides there in recess periods (i.e. he stays there more than in his London property whilst recognising that he would often also be away from both homes through other work or holidays.) He also indicated that until recently his employment had entailed extensive periods of work and travel around the country at weekends.
In view of the assurances by Lord Rennard about the change in his circumstances and the time he spends in Eastbourne, and in the absence of any definition of main address in the current guidance to the House of Lords’ Members Expenses Scheme, I have come to the conclusion that I should not uphold the complaint.