A Tory peer who was jailed for fraudulently claiming expenses has defended "clocking in" to claim a £300 daily attendance allowance at the House of Lords despite spending less than 40 minutes there.
Lord Hanningfield, who was jailed for nine weeks in 2011 for falsely claiming £14,000 in expenses, was allegedly filmed by the Daily Mirror spending less than 40 minutes attending the Lords on 11 out of 19 occasions.
During these fleeting visits, the shortest of which was just 21 minutes, Hanningfield still claimed his full allowance. He did not take part in any votes, discussions or meetings.
Hanningfield, a former leader of Essex County Council, said "clocking in" – which is legal – is a normal and necessary practice and he could name 50 other peers who also do it.
He said: "Lots of peers go in and check in for their expenses, but they are using their expenses for a lot of things - entertaining, meeting people, employing people.
"Clocking in and out of parliament is only part of being a peer.
"By the time I have people at home to help, time I have people in the House of Lords to help me, I spend something like £150 a day on expenses, so I don't really make any profit.
"I have to live, don't I? I don't do anything else. How do you think I am going to eat, how am I going to pay my electricity bills?
"My income from the Lords will be about £30,000 a year. I pay about that in £18,000 in expense to other people. I'll end up with £12,000 a year."
"I can name 50 that do it. I see the same people go in and out as I do. I don't want to be persecuted."
Hanningfield, who was stripped of the Tory whip in 2010, is alleged to have claimed a total of £51,300 between April 2012 and July 2013 despite making no speeches in the House.
He said that after he was released from prison he attempted to turn his life around after suffering "virtually a nervous breakdown".
He added: "Being a lord is not just going in the House of Lords. It's the post you have. I have 15 letters a day, I have all sorts of things like that.
"I can do some of it at home, some of it at my office in the Lords. I admit I don't go much into the main chamber. If you look at my records since October it's changed dramatically because I've spoken twice.
"Let me explain again. I was trying to get myself organised after a nervous breakdown, a traumatic period."