London: An 84-year-old Indian-origin millionaire peer is facing an eight-month suspension from the House of Lords for breaching the British Parliament’s expense claim rules for the second time.
Lord Amir Bhatia was under investigation by the House of Lords Committee for Privileges and Conduct, which recommended his suspension in a report yesterday.
The report concluded: “The Commissioner found that Lord Bhatia had breached the House of Lords’ rules on financial support for members on 63 occasions from January to July 2010, claiming mileage expenses from the House of Lords while also claiming expenses for the same journeys from another organisation.
“The Commissioner also found that in submitting the claims Lord Bhatia had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to act on his personal honour.”
The report’s conclusions will now be taken up in the House of Lords next week for a formal decision on the suspension. This is the second time Bhatia can be suspended over expenses irregularities, the first time in 2010 after he wrongly claimed 27,446 pounds in overnight allowances and mileage expenses.
The latest incident follows a television broadcast in December 2013 on ‘BBC Newsnight’, which alleged that Bhatia claimed and received mileage expenses from both the House of Lords and a charity he was involved with, the Ethnic Minority Foundation, in respect of the same journeys.
A complaint was made alleging that Bhatia breached the House’s rules on financial support by such double claiming. Bhatia admitted to the Lords committee that he had wrongly claimed the mileage expenses from both bodies “due to a system not being in place in his office to prevent double-claiming”.
He said his claims were prepared by his long-standing personal assistant and he signed the forms she prepared. He apologised and offered to repay the money, the committee’s report notes.
The committee has recommended that he repay the 756 pounds he had wrongly claimed.
Lord Bhatia had appealed to the House of Lords against its findings, which was rejected and the final report released this week. “This is Lord Bhatia’s second case of breach of the House’s rules on financial support for members — Lord Bhatia in October 2010 was found to have misused the system of financial support for members by wrongly designating his main residence and claiming overnight allowance and mileage expenses accordingly from October 2007 to January 2009, amounting to 27,466 pounds, for which he was suspended from the House for eight months,” the committee noted.
Bhatia is a millionaire businessman who entered the House of Lords as a cross-bench peer in 2001. The Ismaili Muslim of Indian-origin was born in East Africa and studied in Tanzania and India.