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The new leader of the UK Independence Party, Lord Pearson, claimed more than £100,000 in publicly-funded expenses on the basis that his £3.7 million house in London was his second home while also owning in a 12,000-acre estate with servants in Scotland.
By Jon Swaine
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a businessman and peer who warned that the MPs' expenses scandal exposed a “growing gulf between the political class and the British people” was last week elected leader of Ukip.
He has sat in the Lords since 1990. Since 2001, the earliest year for which expenses records are available, he has told the Parliamentary authorities that his estate beside Loch Rannoch, Perthshire, is his “main home”.
This enabled him to claim about £100,000 in taxpayer-funded overnight subsistence allowances between April 2001 and June 2007 for staying at his town house in Victoria, one mile away from Parliament in central London, where he had no mortgage to pay.
Peers can claim £174 a night – with no receipts required – to cover the cost of staying at a second home or hotel room in the capital “for the purpose of attending sittings of the House”.
After selling the flat for £3.7 million In June 2007, Lord Pearson moved to another London flat two miles away in Kennington. He paid £1.2 million for the flat, again without a mortgage. He then claimed another £15,000 in allowances on the basis of his overnight stays there.
Lord Pearson has repeatedly declared in official company documents that his London home was his “usual residential address”.
His London house was also given as the address to which applicants wishing to work as a housekeeper or gardener at the Scottish estate should send their CVs, in an advert placed by Lady Pearson in The Scottish Farmer in January this year.
Lords rules state: “Members whose main residence is within Greater London cannot claim night subsistence.”
As well as claiming £115,683 for overnight subsistence, since 2001 Lord Pearson has claimed £56,685 in “day subsistence” allowances. Peers can claim £86.50 a day for meals, drinks and taxis while working in Westminster, with no need for receipts.
The peer – who was paid £40,000 a year for his remaining City work until being elected Ukip leader – also claimed £48,471 in travel expenses – including £10,064 for the cost of flying between Scotland and London in the last two recorded years alone.
Lord Pearson told the Daily Telegraph yesterday that rather than gaining from the allowances system, he had been “impoverished” by his political career. “Working in the Lords has cost me millions,” he said.
“I had to take a substantial cut in my city earnings … from memory I have given up about £200,000 per annum since 1990.”
He said: “My (main) home is in Scotland. I spend almost exactly half the year there.” He said he had cited the London home as his “usual” address in company documents “for convenience” in dealing with business correspondence.
Lord Pearson, 67, made his fortune from Pearson Webb Springbett, the insurance brokers he co-founded in 1964. He was chairman when it was sold to the THB Group in January last year for a multi-million pound sum.
Speaking in the Lords in July about what he called the “parliamentary expenses saga,” Lord Pearson said that he had long been “trying to warn of the growing gulf between us, the political class, and the British people.”
He said that the expenses scandal had “done nothing to endear the people to their political class.”
In a newspaper interview on Saturday he said Parliament had become “irrelevant”. “We should think about abolishing the House of Lords,” he added. “We in Ukip are anti the political class.”