Sunday, June 3, 2012

Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi 'claimed £165.50 a night in House of Lords expenses despite staying in a £75 a night

Tory Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi has spent more than £14,000 of taxpayers’ money on trips abroad – despite having no Government role in foreign affairs.

She made 14 visits in two years, including five to Pakistan and others to Bosnia, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, India, Rome, Uzbekistan and Malaysia.

The Tory Party co-chairwoman is already facing an inquiry into expenses claims of £165.50 a night for staying in a London flat owned by friend and special adviser Naweed Khan. Mr Khan joined her on some of the overseas trips.

Eight of the visits cost taxpayers £14,292, while the bill for the six most recent has yet to be revealed.

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Michael Dugher said Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim Cabinet member, took more trips than any of her colleagues. He sought assurances that the Minister without Portfolio was not using them to conduct Party business.

Mr Dugher said: “While lecturing everybody else about austerity, Baroness Warsi appears to have run up a hefty bill by jet-setting abroad with her political adviser. Can she explain why? We also need reassuring that she has not been conducting party business.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “As a Muslim who is fluent in Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati and who can read and write Arabic, Baroness Warsi is a massive asset in representing the British Government abroad.

The peer denies these allegations and has referred herself to Paul Kernaghan, the Lords Commissioner for Standards, who is expected to carry out an investigation.

Warsi has also been criticised for failing to declare to Parliament that she had been receiving thousands of pounds in rent since moving out of her Wembley flat.

She additionally faces the prospect of a police probe, after the Met received a complaint from a member of the public.

Warsi said: 'I believe the membership of the House of Lords is a privilege, which is why I have at all times sought to ensure that my conduct, including claims for overnight accommodation and subsistence, is in accordance with both the letter of the law and the spirit of the rules.

'That is why I have referred the allegations relating to my claims for overnight allowances to the Commissioner for Standards in the House of Lords, thereby enabling the Commissioner to carry out an investigation that would otherwise be time-barred.'

Separately, the Mail On Sunday today revealed that Warsi made two trips to the Middle East that were funded by the Saudi Arabian government.

Both trips were to Saudi Arabia and Warsi was joined on one of them by her husband.

She has declared both trips in the House of Lords register but no costs have been disclosed.

Warsi added that her husband had 'met his own costs'.

So far, the prime minister has backed Warsi despite calls for her to resign.
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