House of Lords suspends Swraj Paul, Bhatia

Three British lawmakers, including two Indian-origin MPs, probed over the expenses they claimed were on Thursday suspended from the House of Lords, after a committee recommended the same on this Monday.

Zeenews Bureau

London: Britain`s House of Lords today
endorsed the recommendation of its Privileges Committee and
suspended for varying periods three members of Asian-origin
after concerns had been voiced about a possible racial bias in
the decision.

The House unanimously approved sanctions against Lord
Swraj Paul, who remains suspended for four months, Baroness
Manzila Pola Uddin, who remains suspended for 18 months, and
Amirali Alibhai Bhatia, who remains suspended for 8 months,
for claiming thousands of pounds in parliamentary expenses
which the Committee believed they were not entitled to.

Commenting on the development, Paul had yesterday said the committee had taken an “unfair and selective decision”. He will not appeal against the decision.

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During the debate in the House on the resolution,
prominent Labor peer Lord Waheed Alli raised concerns about a
possible racial bias.

"It cannot have escaped your attention that the only
three members of the House who were referred to the Committee
for Privileges and Conduct and subsequently investigated under
these procedures were all Asian," Alli said.

Lord Paul was suspended despite the Privileges
Committee finding that he had not acted "dishonestly or in bad
faith".

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The investigation followed a series of complaints and questions over alleged abuses of the expenses system in the House of Lords, the report said.

br> The House accepted the recommendation of the Committee,
which observed that "We do not feel justified in finding, on
the balance of probabilities, that Lord Paul acted dishonestly
or in bad faith. However, his actions were utterly
unreasonable and demonstrated gross irresponsibility and
negligence."

Paul, an Indian-born steel tycoon who has donated more than 400,000 pounds to Labour and is close to Gordon Brown, is understood to have already repaid about 38,000 pounds.

He admitted that he never spent a single night at an Oxfordshire flat that he registered as his main home while claiming money in overnight expenses for a London property.

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Bhatia, another millionaire, has a 1.5 million pounds home in southwest London but in 2007 he "flipped" the designation of his main home to a two-bedroom flat in Surrey county, which used to be lived in by his brother, the paper said.

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A House spokesman said Saturday night he could not comment on the latest revelations about the trio.

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Last year, two Labour peers -- Lord Taylor of Blackburn and Lord Truscott -- were suspended from the House of Lords for six months for misconduct, the first such action since the 17th century. They were found by a Lords committee to be willing to change laws in exchange for cash.

-Agencies inputs

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