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Hurt Swraj Paul demands public enquiry into Lords' expenses

world Updated: Nov 14, 2010 11:24 IST

Hurt at being "unjustly and unfairly targeted" by a 'kangaroo court', Lord Swraj Paul on Sunday demanded a public enquiry into expenses of members of the House of Lords which has suspended him over his allowances claims.

Paul, who has resigned as the deputy speaker because "my faith in the House and in British justice has been shattered," told PTI that he will continue to speak out against the abuse of power and fight for a democratic House of Lords which functions transparently.

The NRI industrialist was recently suspended from the House for four months for allegedly being negligent in his claims for overnight allowances that, he said, had been made according to rules in place in 2005-06.

Calling the punishment meted out to him as unjust and unfair, Paul demanded a public enquiry into "practices of expenses" of members of the House during the past decade and also why he had been singled out for "harsh" treatment.

"I will certainly speak out against the way I have been treated. What kind of justice is it when other peers have been treated by a different set of standards? Even the Metropolitan Police cleared me of any wrong-doing. The battle is not over; I am not a quitter," he said.

It was unheard of in British parliamentary history that a member had been suspended not for dishonesty, but for negligence, he said.

Two members of the five-member sub-committee that went into his case were 'openly hostile' to him. The chairperson of the sub-committee had publicly acknowledged that she had threatened to resign if their report was not accepted by the Privileges Committee, he said.

The fact that one member of the sub-committee had asked 122 out of 169 questions put to him "tells us something", he said.

A house outside London had been designated as his 'main residence', which entitled him to claim expenses to attend the House of Lords proceedings.

Paul's stand had been vindicated by the police, which did not find any reason to continue investigations into his claims. But a House sub-committee chose to proceed against him.

He said: "My case was referred to the Metropolitan Police after a campaign by the press and a Scottish MP who was opposed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. One has to assume it was politically motivated.

"However, the police very quickly said there was no case against me because the rules that I and my fellow members had followed when submitting expenses claims were too vague to be enforceable."

He added: "I had repaid the money -- in fact I had repaid 14,000 pounds more than I need to have done -- and been told by the police that they would not be taking action.

"Since I had already repaid the money and the police had decided there was no case against me, why did the House of Lords authorities think it needed further investigation?"