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Lord Laird among peers who rarely vote but claim tens of thousands of pounds in expenses

Lord Laird voted just twice in the House of Lords but claimed £48,000 in expenses. Picture by Mal McCann

FORMER Ulster Scots Agency chairman Lord Laird voted just twice in the House of Lords while claiming £48,000 in expenses.

The former Belfast-based public relations practitioner was among more than a third of peers who had spoken five times or fewer in the chamber in 2016-17 yet claimed more than £4m in expenses.

The figures have been compiled by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), which claimed there was an "expenses free-for-all in the mother of all parliaments", with claims soaring by 20 per cent in just two years.

The research showed almost four per cent of peers had not spoken or voted at all.

Westminster's second chamber has 798 members in total, making it the second-largest legislative body in the world, after the National People's Congress of China.

ERS's Darren Hughes said: "There appears to be a growing something for nothing culture in our upper house, with tidy sums being claimed by those who barely contribute."

Unelected Lord Laird (73), who in 2005 claimed £260 for a taxi from Belfast to Dublin, said he is considered ­disabled in Westminster due to a heart condition which leaves him often unable to get to the chamber in time to vote.

He claimed many issues discussed in the chamber were irrelevant to Northern Ireland.

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