Tory peer denies fraud over expenses

A FORMER Tory peer made "false, deceptive and misleading" claims for expenses, a jury heard.

Lord Taylor of Warwick appeared at Southwark Crown Court yesterday charged with six counts of false accounting.

Prosecutor Helen Law told the court he submitted forms saying his main residence was in Oxford when he was actually living in London.

He claimed for travelling expenses between the two cities and for night subsistence to cover being in the capital, she said.

The place in Oxford was where his half-nephew lived and Lord Taylor has agreed that he never stayed at the address and had no legal or financial interest in it, Ms Law added.

Lord Taylor, who joined the Lords in 1996, denies the charges.

Ms Law said the prosecution accepted there was "some ambiguity" in circumstances where peers had more than one home because there was no guidance as to which should be designated the main home.

But she added there was no confusion in Lord Taylor's case because he only had one home and it was in London.

"The prosecution say that in the view of the scheme, he was not entitled to claim the night subsistence and it has never been suggested that there was any ambiguity about when you could claim travel expenses," she told the jury.

"If Lord Taylor did have any difficulty understanding the scheme, both the general guide and the quick guide made it clear what he should do."

She also claimed Lord Taylor had "lied repeatedly" in emails to Sunday Times journalist Jonathan Calvert when he told him his main home had been his mother's address in Solihull, West Midlands.

Lord Taylor told Calvert he had been caring for his ill mother, and the arrangement "came to an end in 2007" when he became permanently based in London. However, his mother died in 2001 and her house was then sold.

Ms Law added: "The prosecution say this case is very simple. Lord Taylor did not have a main home in Oxford and he was not entitled to claim as if he did.

"He knew that and he claimed anyway. He did so in a way that he knew would mislead the Members' expenses section into making payments he wasn't entitled to. His actions were dishonest."

Mohammed Khamisa QC, defending Lord Taylor, told the jury the peer had been "honest and upright" in his 14 years in the House of Lords.

He said others who spoke to Lord Taylor told him his claims were "acceptable" because members did not receive a salary.

"You will hear that others with whom he worked, other peers he spoke to, had all told him that what he was doing was acceptable," he told the jury.

The court heard Lord Taylor was not a wealthy hereditary peer and had given up his job as a barrister.

Mr Khamisa said: "Peers in the House of Lords are not paid a salary but an allowance system is in existence, since about 1958, enabling those like John Taylor, who don't come from a hereditary background, to claim expenses.

"And by 2006, by the time John Taylor was in the House of Lords, they had evolved a system where new peers were encouraged to claim the maximum allowance because it was recognised that if you were going to ask people to give up their day jobs, they have to be compensated in another way.

"The expenses were treated by peers as something in lieu of a salary but not that he wasn't working, not that he wasn't attending the House of Lords, not that he wasn't attending meetings."

The trial was adjourned until today.