Controversial Borders peer set to retire next year

Lord Sanderson, Chairman of the newly formed Abbotsford House Trust gets set for the  large fundraising quest needed to safeguard the house and its treasures.
Lord Sanderson, Chairman of the newly formed Abbotsford House Trust gets set for the large fundraising quest needed to safeguard the house and its treasures.

A Borders peer at the heart of an expenses row has said he is to retire from the House of Lords in 2018.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden hit the headlines this week when he was slammed by the Electoral Reform Society for claiming £12,279 expenses in the past parliamentary year – despite not speaking in any debate, submitting a written question or sitting on a committee.

The 84-year-old did vote on 25 occasions – each time voting “not content” on the various bills put before the house.

He defended his expenses over the previous year, citing the fact that he had done a lot of voluntary work for the Conservative Party over the years, saying: “I think you should realise that some people at their own expense give their talents for free and you would do well to study what is involved over the whole period of service before drawing conclusions.”

He added that he was thinking about retiring, and told us yesterday evening that was, indeed the case, following the release this week of a report set up in December last year by the Speaker of the Lords, Norman Fowler, which recommended that the house be reduced by a quarter, with new peers limited to 15-year terms, “in order to maintain confidence in the chamber”.

In his email, Lord Sanderson told The Southern: “As you know the House of Lords Reform paper has now been published.

“I was there to hear about it and I have made clear to my party that I wish to retire in 2018 on a date of their choosing, thus being in the first batch under the new system of withdrawal.

“This is exactly what I wanted to do, but wanted to be sure that the policy had all party support.

“Now you will realise why I could not confirm what my intentions were until publication of what I had hoped was coming out.

“I hope you got the gist of the story that I can tell you about the enormous amount of unseen work on behalf of the party of my choice, which I have consistently carried through.”

Our followers on Facebook, however, had more difficulty equating voluntary work for the Conservative party with claiming expenses without participating in debates.

Marco McGinty said: “I used to do a lot of voluntary work. Does that now mean that the UK government will grant me a tax-free £10k sum on an annual basis?”

And Jacki Lindsay wrote: “What he may have done voluntarily in the past has no bearing whatsoever.”