Bishop of Chester claims most expenses


Staff reporter

AN investigation has revealed that the Bishop of Chester is top of the list of expenses claimed by bishops for attendance at the House of Lords.

The Rt Rev Peter Forster claimed more than £27,000 in 2010/11 for attending sessions at the House of Lords.

Bishop Forster, 62, attended the House on 97 days in that time period, claiming £27,600 in attendance allowances and £7,309 in travel expenses.

The next highest claimant, the Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, attended on 60 days, claiming £15,600 for attendance and £4,220 in expenses.

Under current regulations, peers are allowed fixed-rate allowances to attend the sessions on top of their travel costs, although some bishops do not make any claim.

But a spokesman for the Bishop of Chester said the figures, revealed after an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent newspaper, related to the bishop’s extra responsibilities, including his involvement in a Joint Select Committee.

He said: “The bishop’s attendance in the House of Lords was higher than usual for the period in question because of his membership of the Joint Select Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, which required him to attend weekly for several months.

“And being from the north, he has greater accommodation costs than many other bishops.”

It is at least the second time Bishop Forster, a father-of-four, has made the top of an expenses claims list.

In 2008/09 he had claimed £7,868 in overnight subsistence allowance, and had also topped the list in office and travel expenses. During that year he attended the Lords on 67 occasions and spoke 16 times.

Bishop Forster was educated at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities, where he studied chemistry and theology, before being ordained into the church in 1980.
After working as a vicar in Liverpool and Beverley, he was appointed the 40th Bishop of Chester in 1996.

Meanwhile, a Cabinet minister has come to the defence of bishops under fire for their House of Lords expenses claims.

Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Lords, said the bishops provided good value and were eligible to receive the same allowances as other peers.

Under the current system, peers are able to claim travel costs plus a fixed allowance of either £300 or £150 for every day they attend the Lords.

Peers do not receive a Lords salary and the allowances are intended to cover expenses such as accommodation.

At question time in the Lords, former Tory MP Lord Cormack asked Lord Strathclyde: "Would you deplore the indiscriminate attacks on the bishops?

“We appreciate their presence, we believe that they perform valuable duties and we do not expect them to sleep on the Embankment.”

Lord Strathclyde replied: “I entirely agree. Bishops are eligible for the daily allowance and all the other travel allowances as any peer is and I think the House regards the bishops as providing very good value.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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