Leading human rights lawyer to review judgement on the peers who were given lengthy bans from Parliament
by ANDREW PIERCE
Last updated at 12:33 PM on 21st November 2011
Lady Uddin: She claimed more than £100,000 between 2005 and 2010 and was apparently reduced to tears by questioning
Three Asian peers given lengthy bans from Parliament after wrongly claiming almost £200,000 in expenses are at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle over whether they were targeted because of their race.
The sanctions against Lady Uddin, Lord Paul, and Lord Bhatia were the most draconian against misbehaving peers in 300 years.
But now Labour peer Lord Ali has hired leading human rights lawyer Imran Khan to review the damning judgment on the peers by the Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee.
At least one of the three – Lord Paul – admitted he had ‘grave reservations’ about the disciplinary process used to punish him.
Asked if he thought he had been the victim of racism, he said last night: ‘I am very unhappy with the way I was treated but am not willing to comment any further.’
The suspensions, ordered last October, were the longest for the Upper House since the 17th century.
They were prompted by a series of revelations made by peers at the time of the MPs’ expenses scandal and led to a string of internal disciplinary probes.
Lord Ali, who created Channel 4’s Big Breakfast, was made a peer by Tony Blair in 1998 at the age of 34.
He said: ‘Something is not right about the way these three peers were treated. There were at least 12 members of the House of Lords who were accused of abusing their second home allowances. Yet only these three were singled out to be disciplined. Look at them.
‘All three are Asian. It does not look right. This process was flawed. At one point, when Lady Uddin was before the sub-committee she was reduced to tears by the questioning.
‘She excused herself, and went to the lavatory, but within three minutes they were bashing on the door demanding she come out.’
Suspended: Lord Bhatia, left and Lord Paul, right, were given lengthy bans from Parliament for wrongly claiming tens of thousands of pounds in expenses
The Labour peer Lord Clarke of Hampstead also breached the rules governing the second homes allowance. But after he repaid £9,190 he was ordered to apologise in the Lords chamber and was not suspended.
Somehow, at least one of them feels that as a ‘minority’ they have more of a right to cheat the system