Uddin

Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin ex Wiki, the first Pakistani woman in the Lords decides to try a bit of fancy footwork in re expenses. Uddin makes off with £125,349.10. The police decide to let Uddin get away with it. The Crown Prosecution Service decide to let her get away with it. The Lord's Privileges and Conduct Committee choose to allege that Uddin has wrongly claimed [ i.e. stolen ] £125,349.10 and that they are going to let her get away with it, if she pays it back, or even if she does not. Uddin claims that she has not got the money to pay back. Uddin has the gall to complain. Uddin has the money for the lawyers.

You don't have to believe it is corruption, Official Corruption in action. You do not have to believe it is Racism, that is anti-English Racism. I do. So do lots of others. Read for yourself. Think for yourself. Decide for yourself.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldselect/ldprivi/39/3903.htm

The Conduct of Baroness Uddin - Privileges and Conduct Committee Contents

The Conduct of Baroness Uddin


Introduction

1.  The Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct have investigated the conduct of Baroness Uddin. The Sub-Committee's report is printed as an Appendix to this Report.

2.  The Sub-Committee's investigation into the conduct of Lady Uddin should be read in parallel with its investigations in the conduct of Lord Bhatia and Lord Paul. All three cases arise out of articles originally appearing in The Sunday Times, and each raises similar issues. Each of the Sub-Committee's reports contains similar background analysis (for instance, of the rules governing the Members' Reimbursement Scheme[1]).

3.  But, however similar the issues, the facts of each case are wholly distinct and have required separate consideration. The Sub-Committee, and we ourselves, have therefore prepared three separate reports.

Process

4.  The process followed in this case is summarised in paragraphs 5-6 of the Sub-Committee's report. The original allegations against Lady Uddin appeared on 3 May 2009; a complaint was made the same day by Angus Robertson MP. The initial investigation was conducted by the Clerk of the Parliaments as Accounting Officer, but was then suspended while a separate investigation was conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service. Following a decision by the Metropolitan Police Service and Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Lady Uddin, announced on 12 March 2010, the Clerk of the Parliaments immediately asked the Sub-Committee "to investigate and determine the facts of the case".

5.  The procedure in these cases follows that agreed by the House in December 2008[2], whereby the Clerk of the Parliaments can request the assistance of the Sub-Committee in investigating complaints which he considers "complex or serious". As a Sub-Committee of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct, the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct normally reports to the parent Committee. But, as this case was referred to the Sub-Committee by the Clerk of the Parliaments, the Sub-Committee reported to the Clerk of the Parliaments. He, given the nature of the sanctions recommended by the Sub-Committee, forwarded the report in turn to this Committee.

6.  The Sub-Committee, following an investigation which had been interrupted by the dissolution of Parliament, sent its report to the Clerk of the Parliaments on 28 July. The Sub-Committee also recommended that, in order to preserve confidentiality, the Clerk of the Parliaments should not disclose the report to any other person until late in the summer recess. He accordingly forwarded the report to the staff of this Committee in late September, and a copy was at once sent to Lady Uddin, on 21 September. She was at the same time notified of her right to appeal against the Sub-Committee's findings to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. She submitted her appeal on 5 October, also indicating her wish to appear in person before the Select Committee at its meeting on 11 October.

7.  Although the Sub-Committee's report was forwarded to this Committee in its entirety, certain matters covered in it relate to the administration of the Members' Reimbursement Scheme (for instance, the changes which the Sub-Committee indicates were made to the Scheme in April 2009, referred to in paragraphs 27 and 90-91 of the Sub-Committee's report), rather than to the privileges of the House or the Code of Conduct. It is for the House Committee, as the Committee responsible for the Members' Reimbursement Scheme, to take forward these matters, on which we make no recommendations.

8.  Our responsibility is to address the conduct of Members who are alleged to have breached rules agreed by the House, and, where appropriate, to recommend sanctions to the House as a whole. The House has previously resolved that it "possesses the same disciplinary powers in respect of breaches of the Members' Reimbursement Scheme as in respect of breaches of the Code of Conduct or of other rules of conduct adopted by the House".[3]

The Sub-Committee's findings

9.  The focus of the investigation has been Lady Uddin's use of the Members' Reimbursement Scheme since 3 May 2005 (in other words, exactly four years before the complaint was received). The Sub-Committee has divided this period into three periods:

·  During the first period (3 May 2005 to 31 July 2005) Lady Uddin designated a house in Frinton on Sea, Essex, as her main residence. The house is owned by Lady Uddin's brother and sister-in-law, who have lived there since 1999.

·  During the second period (lasting altogether from 1 August 2005 until 1 January 2010) Lady Uddin designated a flat in Maidstone, Kent, as her main residence. The Sub-Committee has sub-divided this period into further periods, up to and after 24 April 2009, the date on which Lady Uddin became aware of the Sunday Times' interest in her main residence.

·  Since 1 January 2010 Lady Uddin has designated a property in Wapping, London, as her main residence. This property, a three-bedroom house rented from a housing association, has been Lady Uddin's family home since 1993, and there is no question that she is entitled to designate it as her main residence.

10.  According to Lady's Uddin's own account, she started using the Frinton property as a "bolt-hole" in around 2000. She designated it as her "main residence" in 2001, but continued to live in the family home during the week, spending most weekends in Frinton. She had her own room in the house, and lived as part of the family.

11.  The house in Frinton was owned and occupied by her brother and sister-in-law; although it was available to her as a bolt-hole, her family home remained in London. The Sub-Committee concluded that Lady Uddin did not have a sufficient connection with the Frinton property to designate it as her main residence.

12.  In 2005 Lady Uddin bought the flat in Maidstone, and told the Sub-Committee that her purpose in so doing was to acquire a bolt-hole of her own. The Maidstone flat is the only property owned by Lady Uddin. Having designated it as her main residence, she claimed night subsistence for time spent away from Maidstone every week when the House was sitting; she claimed the mileage allowance for journeys to and from Maidstone every weekend when the House was sitting.

13.  The Sub-Committee's findings of fact in respect of the Maidstone flat, up to 24 April 2009, are set out in paragraphs 101-105 of its report. On the one hand the Sub-Committee had Lady Uddin's own evidence, given either in writing or orally, along with the details of her claims. On the other hand, it had transcripts of interviews covertly recorded by The Sunday Times, and extensive evidence, including formal witness statements, collected in the course of the police investigation. The Sub-Committee placed considerable weight on these statements, made for the most part by neighbours of Lady Uddin in Maidstone. Our conclusions on the status of these statements are set out in paragraphs 34-40 below.

14.  Lady Uddin told the Sub-Committee that she had stayed overnight in Maidstone almost every weekend when the House was sitting. However, the Sub-Committee pointed to several inconsistencies and contradictions within her evidence at different times (paragraph 103). The Sub-Committee did not itself examine the other witnesses, and acknowledged that it was unable to form judgments as to their individual credibility. However, taking into account the high level of consistency between the witness statements, and between those statements and the interviews recorded by The Sunday Times, the Sub-Committee decided that it could "rely on the essence of these witness statements taken as a whole" (paragraph 104). These statements "together prove, well beyond the balance of probabilities, that Lady Uddin in this period did not stay at the Maidstone property for the minimum of one weekend per month over the year when the House was sitting." The Sub-Committee concluded, on the basis of this finding, that Lady Uddin was wrong to designate the Maidstone flat as her main residence.

15.  On 24 April 2009 Lady Uddin became aware of the Sunday Times' interest in the Maidstone flat. From this point there is clear evidence of frequent visits to the flat. However, taking the circumstances into account, the Sub-Committee concluded that her presence in Maidstone increased "only in an attempt to suggest that the property was and had been her main residence since August 2005". The Sub-Committee therefore found that, notwithstanding the frequency of her visits, the flat still "did not acquire the character of a main residence within any natural meaning of the words".

16.  The Sub-Committee then considered whether Lady Uddin acted in good faith in making her designations and claims (paragraphs 113-117). For reasons which are set out in more detail below, we consider these paragraphs to be particularly crucial. The Sub-Committee concluded that the interpretation advanced by Lady Uddin of the term "main residence" was itself unreasonable; and moreover that her designation of both the Frinton and Maidstone properties as "main residences" was "a deliberate misrepresentation of her position even on the basis of her understanding of the scheme". Her travel claims, in the Sub-Committee's view, were made only "with the intention of adding verisimilitude to her designation of her main residences". In total, the Sub-Committee calculated that she wrongly claimed £125,349.10 over the period in question.

17.  In conclusion, the Sub-Committee recommended that Lady Uddin be required to make a personal statement of apology to the House; and that she be suspended from the service of the House for three years or until she has repaid the sum of £125,349.10, whichever is the later (paragraph 123).

Lady Uddin's appeal

18.  Lady Uddin's appeal, signed on her behalf by Thompsons Solicitors and Gavin Millar QC, challenges the Sub-Committee's interpretation of the facts in detail. In particular the appeal analyses at length the interviews recorded by The Sunday Times, and the witness statements made to the police, with a view to demonstrating that the Sunday Times journalists asked leading or slanted questions, encouraging biased and unreliable responses; and that the witness statements contradict each other and also contradict the earlier interviews with The Sunday Times.

19.  The appeal also notes that the Sub-Committee did not bring forward any clear evidence that Lady Uddin was not in the flat on any of the days when she claimed to be there (such as evidence to show that she was in another part of the country). To paraphrase this element within the appeal, the evidence advanced to show that Lady Uddin did not go to the flat constitutes an attempt to "prove a negative".

20.  The appeal sets out a number of other specific grounds of appeal. These may be summarised as follows.

PROCEDURAL FAILURES

21.  Lady Uddin's appeal says that the Sub-Committee acted unfairly, in particular that it failed to comply with the requirement, in the 2001 Code of Conduct, that Members under investigation be afforded procedural safeguards as rigorous as those applied in the courts and disciplinary bodies. For instance, the Sub-Committee failed to test the statements provided by other witnesses, in the way that Lady Uddin's evidence was tested in the course of her meeting with the Sub-Committee.

BIAS

22.  The appeal says that the witnesses were biased against Lady Uddin, by the initial questioning by the Sunday Times journalists and by the subsequent publicity.

STANDARD OF PROOF

23.  The appeal also argues that the Sub-Committee should have applied the criminal standard of proof to this case, on the basis that "in the public eye the decision of the House will be tantamount to conviction for a criminal offence".

LACK OF EVIDENCE IN RESPECT OF FRINTON

24.  The appeal notes that the witness statements relate only to Lady Uddin's Maidstone property; the Sub-Committee's reasoning on the Maidstone flat "cannot be relied upon to draw adverse inference as to Lady Uddin's credibility in relation to [Frinton]." Even if Lady Uddin erred in designating the property in Frinton as her main residence, she did so honestly, and on the basis of advice from her Chief Whip. Lady Uddin's appeal then addresses the recommended sanction. It states that she does not have the means to repay £125,349.10, and that in practice therefore the sanction will result in indefinite suspension from the House. It is suggested that such a sanction is "arbitrary", given that the Sub-Committee "made no enquiry of Lady Uddin's means before recommending [it]". The appeal also argues that "it is … wrong in principle that the length of a suspension should depend upon the Member's means".

EVIDENCE TAKEN BEFORE THE COMMITTEE FOR PRIVILEGES AND CONDUCT

25.  Lady Uddin appeared before this Committee on 11 October 2010. A full transcript of her evidence is printed in this volume (see p 218).

Conduct of the Sub-Committee

26.  Although not part of her Appeal, Lady Uddin also submitted as evidence a statement by Baroness McDonagh, who accompanied her when she gave evidence to the Sub-Committee. Lady McDonagh alleges that the Sub-Committee's procedures in the course of the meeting were inadequate, poorly explained or unfair (see pp 215F). The Sub-Committee had already addressed these issues in general terms (paragraph 13 of the report), but in order to be fair to the Sub-Committee we invited its Chairman, Baroness Manningham-Buller, to respond to the specific allegations. Her letter to the Chairman of Committees is printed at p 216G.

27.  Lady McDonagh's allegations were not presented to us as a ground of appeal, and we have not been required to reach a formal decision on them.

The views of the Committee

THE STANDARD OF PROOF

28.  Lady Uddin's appeal argues that the Sub-Committee should have applied (and, by implication, this Committee should apply) the criminal standard of proof ("beyond reasonable doubt") to this case. Instead, the Sub-Committee applied the test set out in the Report on procedure: "in order to find against a Member, the Sub-Committee requires at least that the allegation is proved on the balance of probabilities". This Report, and the procedure it describes, was agreed by the House on 18 December 2008.

29.  The words "at least", in the passage just quoted, indicate that there is an element of flexibility inherent within this standard of proof. This was confirmed in our Report on the conduct of Lords Moonie, Snape, Truscott and Taylor of Blackburn:

11. The standard of proof we have adopted in deciding whether to uphold or reject the Sub-Committee's findings has been the same as that applied by the Sub-Committee: in other words, while taking the civil standard of proof, the balance of probabilities, as the appropriate standard, we have, in the light of the seriousness of the allegations, taken the view that particularly strong evidence should be required before we may be satisfied that the allegations are proved.[4]

  This Report was agreed by the House on 20 May 2009.

30.  Finally, the Guide to the new Code of Conduct, which came into force at the start of the present Parliament (and which will apply to any future investigations), states:

119. The civil standard of proof is adopted at all stages in the enforcement process, not only by the Commissioner, but by the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct and the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. Thus, in order to find against a Member, the Commissioner will require at least that the allegation is proved on the balance of probabilities.[5]

  This Report was agreed by the House on 16 March 2010.

31.  In other words, the House has three times explicitly endorsed the principle that the civil standard of proof should be adopted in such investigations, while acknowledging that within the civil standard a substantial degree of flexibility is allowed in judging the strength of evidence required to justify a finding against a Member. This is entirely appropriate: these are internal disciplinary proceedings, and the sanctions to which Members may be subject (including suspension from the House for a period not exceeding the lifetime of the current Parliament) are also internal in character. No criminal liability follows from such a finding. Nor is there any read-across, in either direction, between, for instance, our findings in this case and the conclusions reached by the Director of Public Prosecutions (on which Lady Uddin seeks to rely in paragraph 45 of her appeal).

32.  Our approach to the question of the appropriate standard of proof is entirely consistent with the approach taken in the courts.[6]

33.  We reiterate the principle that the standard of proof adopted in investigations should be that set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct, namely that the allegation should be proved at least on the balance of probabilities. We have therefore dismissed this element of Lady Uddin's appeal.

PROCEDURAL FAILURES AND BIAS

34.  Lady Uddin alleges that the witnesses who made statements in the course of the police investigation were biased against her, by the initial questioning by the Sunday Times journalists and by the subsequent publicity. She also points to some contradictions either within or between some of those statements. She argues that the procedure adopted in her case was unfair, in that the Sub-Committee failed to test the evidence provided by these witnesses, and did not afford her an opportunity, either personally or through Counsel, to do so.

35.  The Report on procedure, following the 2001 Code of Conduct, states that "in the investigation and adjudication of complaints against them, Members of the House have the right to safeguards as rigorous as those applied in the courts and professional disciplinary bodies". The new Code of Conduct adopted in 2009, while it omits this provision, states that all those involved in investigating allegations against Members "shall act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness".

36.  The Report on procedure also stated that "every effort is made to keep proceedings informal". This creates a tension, between, on the one hand, the assurance of procedural safeguards to Members, and, on the other, the House's explicit endorsement of the principle that internal investigations should not be treated as court proceedings, but should remain informal and inquisitorial, rather than adversarial, in nature.

37.  We consider that the Sub-Committee acted in the present case fully in accordance with the procedures agreed by the House. However, as we have noted, inherent in those procedures is a tension. In seeking to reconcile that tension, we have concluded that, as a point of principle, it is not fair to draw adverse conclusions as to a Member's conduct, on the basis of hearsay evidence that has not been tested.

38.  In our Report of May 2009[7] we relied heavily on covert recordings of conversations between undercover journalists and the four Members concerned. In that case the four Members were judged on their own words: however the recordings had been obtained, there was no doubt that they had spoken the words recorded in the various transcripts. They had ample opportunity to account for those words in the course of the investigation.

39.  In the present case we have been presented with third-party statements. We intend no reflection on the quality of those statements—we simply consider that without testing the statements further it would be not be procedurally fair to draw conclusions from them. We have therefore upheld this element within Lady Uddin's appeal, and have attached no weight to the transcripts provided by The Sunday Times, and the witness statements supplied by the police, in determining this case.

40.  We recognise that the conclusion just reached raises serious questions as to the process for future investigations. However, a new procedure is now in place: there will be no more investigations under the 2001 Code. Under this new procedure, the investigation is conducted by the Commissioner for Standards, who presents findings of fact and his conclusions as to possible breaches of the Code to the Sub-Committee. We recommend that, in light of our conclusions on the present case, the Commissioner and the Sub-Committee review the procedure agreed in March 2010, with a view to establishing processes by means of which all relevant evidence may be taken into account, while ensuring fair treatment for any Member accused of misconduct.

FINDINGS OF FACT

41.  Having attached no weight to the witness statements and other third-party evidence, we must now consider Lady Uddin's own evidence, oral and written, along with her original claim forms. In so doing, we have paid particular attention to the Sub-Committee's analysis of her understanding of the term "main residence" in paragraphs 113-117 of its report.

42.  The key issue in this case is whether or not Lady Uddin's designation of her brother's house in Frinton on Sea and, later, the flat in Maidstone as "main residences", was based on a tenable and genuinely held understanding of the meaning of that term.

43.  The underlying purpose of night subsistence payments was clear. They were intended to enable Members who lived outside London, but who, in order to attend sittings of the House, were required to stay within London (whether by staying in temporary accommodation or by acquiring a permanent residence), to recover some of the costs incurred in so doing:

4.4.1 Members whose main residence is outside Greater London may claim for expenses of overnight accommodation in London while away from their only or main residence ...

4.4.2 A Member whose main residence is outside Greater London and who maintains a residence in London for the purpose of attending sittings of the House may claim this allowance towards the cost of maintaining such a residence.

44.  These payments were not intended to enable Members who lived inside London to acquire properties outside London and designate these as their "main residences", thereby establishing an entitlement to claim additional money from the House, while continuing to live inside London. It is a common element in the three cases we have been considering that in each case the Members concerned had long-established London residences, in which they spent the bulk of their time, before acquiring a "main residence" outside London, in which they spent a much smaller portion of their time.

45.  Lady Uddin told us that she came to this country from Bangladesh at the age of 13, and that since that time her family has been settled in East London (Appeal, Q 1). Her connection with East London is strong, and her family home remains the house in Wapping, in which she has lived since 1993. In evidence to the Sub-Committee, she acknowledged that she had been "based in London over a long period of time", and that, because of changing family circumstances, she needed what she repeatedly described as a "bolt hole" outside London. For a time she rented a flat in Windsor as a bolt hole; she later stayed with her brother in Frinton on Sea; later still she acquired the Maidstone flat. None of these actions affected the basic fact that her home, her family and her social life were in London.

46.  She told the Sub-Committee that she discussed her position with her Chief Whip at the time (Lord Carter) and her mentor (Baroness Pitkeathley), and that she acted "on their advice" (Q 222). She never sought the advice of the Finance Department on the rules (Q 225). When asked whether she did not have a responsibility to check her interpretation against the rules, she initially accepted that she did, before again referring to the advice she said had been given to her by colleagues. But Lord Carter is dead, and Lady Pitkeathley has provided a statement, in which she says that "I certainly don't remember ever discussing with her the definition of 'main residence'" (p 164E). It is therefore impossible to substantiate Lady Uddin's claim that she was advised by colleagues to designate a property outside London as her "main residence".

47.  Nevertheless, under detailed questioning by the Sub-Committee, Lady Uddin consistently attributed her actions to the advice she was given (see QQ 219-237). For instance, asked why the Maidstone flat was her "main residence", she replied: "Because that was my understanding. That was the advice I had been given once I had described my circumstances and so I was told that these are the rules as laid out" (Q 230). Throughout these exchanges, Lady Uddin failed to advance, on her own behalf, any justification for describing these properties as "main residences". Ultimately, her explanation was that she had "two homes" and "two lives" (Q 237); however, this does not explain how, in balancing the demands of these "two homes", she came to designate one rather than the other as her "main residence".

48.  It is telling that in the course of these exchanges Lady Uddin described the Maidstone flat as her "main bolt hole" (Q 236). The term occurs throughout her evidence and the Sub-Committee's report. In presenting her appeal, Lady Uddin put the following gloss upon it: "It was a place of sanctuary, a place of home, a place where I felt safe—all those things ... I took it to be important—a place of safety, a place that was critical to my survival." (Appeal, Q 6)

49.  The Sub-Committee's commentary on this point, reached in the context of Lady Uddin's designation of her brother's house in Frinton, was as follows:

99. We accept that the Frinton property was of great value to her as a "bolt hole". Due however to her return on each occasion to her children and husband in the week, we do not accept that the property ever acquired the character of a main residence for the purpose of the members' reimbursement scheme.

50.  We would go a step further. We do not consider that a "bolt hole", as described by Lady Uddin, could fall within any natural understanding of the term "main residence". A bolt hole is merely a place of escape.

51.  We are aware of the minimum requirement on frequency of visits agreed by the House Committee, and applied by the Clerk of the Parliaments in his investigations, namely that "the main residence had to be visited for a minimum of one weekend per month over the year when the House was sitting and for periods during recesses" (quoted at paragraph 87 of the Sub-Committee report). But this requirement is not, and was never intended to be, a definition of "main residence". It is simply a minimum requirement, intended to be incorporated "into [the Clerk of the Parliaments'] assessment of cases where frequency of visit was an issue".[8] Frequency of visits is not an issue in a case such as the present, where no reasonable or defensible understanding of the term "main residence" has been advanced.

52.  We therefore endorse the Sub-Committee's finding that "The clear purpose of the scheme is the recovery of expenses necessarily incurred in attending the House when away from one's 'main residence' on any natural meaning of those words. Lady Uddin's understanding of the scheme defeats its objective and her understanding of 'main residence' is unreasonable" (paragraph 115). She was therefore wrong to claim money from the House in respect of either the Frinton or Maidstone properties.

53.  We must consider also the Sub-Committee's finding that in so doing, Lady Uddin acted in bad faith. She says that she acted on advice, but admits that at no stage did she seek the advice of the House authorities. Despite being repeatedly asked about the term "main residence", she has at no stage demonstrated an understanding of the term falling within its natural meaning. In the words of the Sub-Committee, "Lady Uddin's understanding of the scheme was that she could designate as her main residence anywhere where she was staying at weekends if it could be considered her home. If one had more than one residence, it was a question of election: 'main' had no meaning." While Lady Uddin told us of her bitter regret at any part she had played in the damage done to the public perception of Parliament. She has not acknowledged that she acted wrongly in making the claims, and has offered only "a sincere and abject apology if I have in any way, without any intention, by following what I thought was the right thing to do, broken the House rules".

54.  We dismiss Lady Uddin's appeal against the Sub-Committee's finding that she wrongly claimed £125,349.10 in night subsistence and mileage allowance; instead, we endorse that finding. We further find that Lady Uddin did not make her claims for night subsistence away from the properties and for the mileage allowance in good faith.

Sanction

55.  The Sub-Committee has recommended "that the House sanction Lady Uddin by requiring her to make a personal statement of apology to the House and thereafter suspending her from the service of the House for three years or until she has repaid the amount wrongly claimed whichever is the later."

56.  As a point of principle, and regardless of the circumstances of the present case, we have decided that the length of suspension should not be determined by reference to the time of repayment. Repayment is not a sanction: it is an act of restitution, the returning of money wrongly claimed and paid. The over-riding priority must be that this money should be returned to the House, and thus to the public purse. Lady Uddin's appeal makes the point that she does not have the means to repay so large a sum. We are not in a position to comment on her financial circumstances, but it is clear that the sanction recommended by the Sub-Committee risks having the effect of preventing her indefinitely from returning to the House. Not only is there a danger that an "indefinite suspension" could exceed the powers of the House, which are limited to suspension "for a defined period not longer than the remainder of the current Parliament"[9], but there is also a possibility that an indefinite suspension would result in the money never being recovered.

57.  We endorse the finding that Lady Uddin has wrongly claimed, and has received, the sum of £125,349.10, to which she was not entitled. The recovery of this money is not a disciplinary matter, and so is not a matter for this Committee. We therefore recommend that it is for the Clerk of the Parliaments, as Accounting Officer, consulting the House Committee as necessary, to consider what arrangements with Lady Uddin may be necessary to secure repayment of this sum to the House.

58.  With regard to apology and suspension, we consider that the greater penalty, suspension, renders the lesser, apology, unnecesary. Nor would it be fair, in a case where the Member concerned has maintained his or her innocence of any misconduct, to require an apology immediately prior to suspension. We therefore confine our recommended sanction to suspension.

59.  In considering the appropriate length of suspension in Lady Uddin's case, we have placed due weight on the Sub-Committee's recommendation. We are fully aware of the seriousness of the present case, in particular the lengthy period over which claims were made wrongly and in bad faith. But we are also aware that the only suspensions imposed by the House hitherto, in May 2009, were for the remainder of the 2009-10 session (just under six months, of which over two months fell in recess). A suspension of three years is of a different order, and much longer also than the suspensions recommended in the other two cases we have considered with this one. We have also taken into account the fact that the House has no power to suspend a Member for longer than the remainder of the Parliament. Even in a five-year Parliament, a suspension for three years could not be imposed after the first two years. In other words, the imposition of a suspension of that duration would set a "tariff" that, for most of a five-year Parliament, would exceed the maximum duration of suspension available to the House. Thus, while fully acknowledging the seriousness of this case, we do not consider a three-year suspension appropriate.

60.  We recommend that Baroness Uddin be suspended from the service of the House until the end of the current session of Parliament. We understand that the session is to continue until Easter 2012.

Redaction

61.  The Sub-Committee reported that Lady Uddin has requested the redaction of certain sensitive material in the report and evidence, in particular material relating to her family circumstances. The Sub-Committee felt that this material was essential to its analysis of the facts of the case, and therefore rejected her request, while inviting us to consider the redaction of other material, specifically that relating to her children.

62.  We have decided to accede to Lady Uddin's original request, on the basis that these materials are of only tangential relevance to our main findings in this case. We have also decided to redact certain personal address details, both of Lady Uddin, and of her family and neighbours. All such redactions are indicated by the blocking out of the relevant text.


1   All references in this Report to the Members' Reimbursement Scheme refer to the Scheme that applied until 30 September 2010. As a result of a motion agreed by the House on 20 July 2010, the day subsistence, night subsistence and office costs elements within the Scheme were combined in a new daily allowance, with effect from 1 October 2010. Back

2   The Code of Conduct: procedure for considering complaints against Members, Committee for Privileges, 4th Report, session 2007-08 (HL Paper 205). Hereafter referred to as the "Report on procedure". Back

3   The conduct of Lord Clarke of Hampstead, Committee for Privileges, 4th Report, session 2009-10, HL Paper 112, paragraph 8. Back

4   The Conduct of Lord Moonie, Lord Snape, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn, Committee for Privileges, 2nd Report, session 2008-09 (HL Paper 88-I). Back

5   The Guide to the Code of Conduct, Committee for Privileges, 2nd Report, session 2009-10 (HL Paper 81). Back

6   See Lord Hoffmann in In re B (Children) (FC) [2008] UKHL 35. See also Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead in In re H (Minors)(Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) [1996] AC 563, 586D-H, and Lord Bingham of Cornhill in B v Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary [2001] 1 WLR 340. Back

7   2nd Report, session 2008-09 (HL Paper 88-I). Back

 

Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin ex Wiki
Tells all, at least the publicly known parts. She was allowed to get away with it. Honest men would not have been.

Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin

The Right Honourable
The Baroness Uddin
Personal details
Born Manzila Pola Uddin
Rajshahi, Bangladesh
Nationality British Bangladeshi
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Komar Uddin
Residence Wapping, London,
United Kingdom
Alma mater University of North London
Occupation Community activist
Profession Politician
Religion Islam
Website www.baronessuddin.com

Manzila Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin (Bengali: মানযিলা পলা উদ্দিন; Romanized: Manzila Pôla Uddin; born 17 July 1959) is a British Labour politician, and community activist.

The first female Muslim in the House of Lords, she was investigated as part of the parliamentary expenses scandal and asked to repay over £120,000. She is currently barred from entering the House of Lords until she repays the outstanding expenses.

Early life

Uddin was born in a village in Bangladesh. She moved with her parents to the United Kingdom in 1973, when she was 13 years of age, and she grew up in the East End of London. She attended the Plashet School in East Ham, and was educated at the University of North London, where she earned a Diploma in social work.[1]

Political career

Uddin started her professional career by creating and leading community working groups in the late 1970s.[2] In 1980, she started working as a Youth and Community worker with the YWCA, and then a Liaison Officer for Tower Hamlets Social Services, and Manager of Tower Hamlets Women's Health Project.[1] She then began working for Newham social services in 1988. In 1990, Uddin was elected a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the first Bangladeshi woman to hold such an office of a local authority in the United Kingdom, which she served for two years.[3][4] She then became the Deputy Leader of Tower Hamlets council, from 1994 to 1996.[5]

In 1997, she applied to be a candidate for the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, but did not reach the shortlist. She was raised to the peerage as Baroness Uddin, of Bethnal Green in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, for life by Letters patent in the afternoon of 18 July 1998, at the House of Lords.[6][7] She was the youngest woman on the benches and the only Muslim and Bangladeshi woman to be appointed to the House of Lords.[8] She was invited to the House of Lords for her contribution to the advancement of women and disability rights, swearing in by saying "Almighty Allah" as she took her seat in the parliament.[4] Since entering the House of Lords she has supported a handful of initiatives. She has received a national and international reputation as a leader in promoting women's equal rights, including human rights, in Britain and abroad.[2]

Uddin has been long campaigning for the increase of skills of Asian women living in Britain. She created the first purpose-built education and training centre for Asian women in the UK called the Jagonari Centre, located at Whitechapel, East London, in 1999.[9] Uddin is a member of the EOP Implementation Committee, and a trustee of St Katherine's and Shadwell Trust.[10]

In 2005, she was selected as part of a delegation to tackle Islamic extremism by Tony Blair. However, in August 2006, Uddin was a signatory to an open letter to Tony Blair criticising the UK's foreign policy. It was an open letter criticising the government's stance on the Middle East. It was signed by three Muslim MPs (which included Sadiq Khan and Mohammed Sarwar), three peers and 38 community groups. The letter was criticised by the then Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells who criticised Muslim leaders for condemning British foreign policy.[11] In 2008, she was made the chairwoman of the ethnic minority women's taskforce.

In 2009 Uddin was nominated for the shortlist of female Peer of the Year at the Women In Public Life Awards though was ultimately unsuccessful.[12]

In 2010, The National Executive Committee of The Labour Party suspended Uddin indefinitely from the Party in light of the expenses claim allegations.[13]

In October 2010, Under the recommendation of The Privileges and Conduct Committee of The House of Lords a suspension is to be handed down to Pola Uddin until Easter 2012 at the earliest for claiming expenses "to which she was not entitled". The Committee also acknowledged a repayment agreement for expenses wrongly claimed.[14]

Expenses scandal

According to a May 2009 investigation by The Sunday Times Insight team, Uddin claims on her House of Lords Expenses that a flat in Maidstone, Kent is her main residence on which she has claimed £30,000 per annum in tax-free expenses since 2005. This is said to have allowed her to also claim the second home allowance on her London property, a scheme that ostensibly exists to compensate politicians living outside London for the cost of accommodation close to Parliament. Residents living near the flat in Maidstone reportedly said they had not seen any occupiers in the flat since Uddin purchased it and that it has remained completely unfurnished,[15][16] but Uddin claims: "The Maidstone property is furnished and I strongly deny that I have never lived there".[17] Uddin's husband even denied having a property in Kent when questioned on the issue by the Times, and she appeared on the electoral roll at her London address from 1996 to date. Additionally her Facebook page states how she has lived in the East End of London for over 30 years.[15]

Uddin claimed a total of £29,675 for accommodation in 2007–08, a time when the maximum daily accommodation claim was £165 a day. Her bill represents a claim at the maximum possible rate for 179 days, more days than the Lords actually sat that year.[18]

Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson called for an investigation on the report to the House of Lords authorities and the police.[19] Based on Land Registry records, it shows Uddin bought the two-bedroom flat on the first floor in central Maidstone in September 2005 for £155,000. Neighbours living near Uddin's other property in Wapping have insisted they have seen her daily coming and going; she is known as 'auntie' by the Bangladeshi community.[20] Uddin said, "I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or breached any House of Lords rules." She stated "I strongly deny that I have never lived there. Indeed I have stayed there regularly since buying it".[19][21]

Uddin has in fact claimed her main home has been outside of London since 2001, earning an extra £83,000 as a result. Despite repeated questioning she has refused to state the location and details of her main home between 2001 and 2005 for which expenses were also claimed.[22] In January 2010 The Times newspaper revealed the property she had claimed for during this period was owned and occupied by her brother and his family, with Uddin's sister-in-law stating she couldn't recollect the Peer ever living there.[23] She also has one of the highest claims for overnight subsistence of any member of the Lords.[24]

Uddin's home in Wapping, where she lives and is registered to vote, is a housing association property. Spitalfields Housing Association received a public subsidy of £37.8 million in 2008. The average rent for its properties is £104 a week, a sixth of the market rate. The allegations of fraud led the Tory opposition leader in Tower Hamlets, Peter Golds, to state, "Lady Uddin is depriving a low-income family of a home which was built for the needy at public expense".[18] On 5 May 2009, one of the senior Lord's official, Clerk of the Parliaments, has announced the House of Lords authorities are investigating the report by the Sunday Times. Uddin welcomed the review: "I welcome this review and will co-operate fully with him in the hope of a speedy resolution and clarity that I did not break the rules of the House."[17][25]

On 23 November 2009, Uddin's cases was passed to the police for possible prosecution for fraud.[26] The Daily Telegraph later reported that she was refusing to cooperate with the police investigation, refusing to answer any questions.[27]

The Crown Prosecution Service announced on 10 March 2010 that Baroness Uddin would not face any charges on the grounds that a senior parliamentary official ruled that a Peers “main house” might be a place they visit only once a month. There were no indications that the expenses would be paid back.[28]

On 18 October 2010, the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee ruled that Baroness Uddin had 'acted in bad faith'[29] and recommended that she should be asked to repay £125,349 as well as being suspended from Parliament until Easter 2012.[30]

On 21 October 2010 the House of Lords voted to accept the committee's recommendations. However, in November 2011, it was revealed that no formal mechanism existed to prevent Baroness Uddin's return to the House of Lords, even if she refused to repay the expenses that were fraudulently claimed, leading many members of her own party to call for her to resign rather than bring the House of Lords into further disrepute.[31]

In December 2011 the House Committee in the Lords recommended that Uddin and Lord Hanningfield should not be allowed back to the Lords until the outstanding expenses had been repaid.[32]

The amount of money quoted in her case (£125,349) is probably the largest amount in any of the House of Commons or House of Lords expenses scandals.[citation needed]

Bangladesh mansion

Further expenses claims by Uddin were later discovered when The Sunday Times revealed that she owns a mansion in Bangladesh. The mansion was described as made out of Italian marble with tiles, mosaics and with a balcony. The mansion was believed to be built after Uddin became a peer in 1998, costing £140,000 which was organised by her husband Komar, located in Jawa Bazar in Chhatak; this is where many of her in-laws are originally from. However Uddin claims that the land was bought by her husband's family, purchased by Kumar's father in 1980.[33]

Personal life

Uddin is married to Komar Uddin; his family are originally from Chhatak, Sunamganj in Sylhet.[33] Together they have four sons and one daughter.[1] Uddin lives with her family in a Housing Association house in Wapping in the borough of Tower Hamlets, however also claims to live in Maidstone in Kent.[1]