Baroness D'Souza brands criticism over her expenses an 'unfair attack'
The outgoing Speaker of the House of Lords has defended herself against charges she wasted taxpayer money with excessive expenses claims.
Baroness D’Souza was criticised last year for spending £230 to keep a chauffeur-driven car waiting while she attended an opera.
The peer also spent £270 while a car waited four and a half hours for her to have lunch with a Japanese ambassador in central London.
Today she insisted her expenses bill was not an “excessive amount of money” in her role of “promoting parliamentary democracy”.
“It’s my job to host people, it's my job to promote parliamentary democracy here and abroad and sometimes I need to spend a little bit of money to do it," she told the BBC's Daily Politics.
"During the five years that I’ve been in this office, we have halved our official attainment expenses.
“In the last financial year, do you know how much I spent hosting VIP delegations, Prime Ministers, Presidents, counterparts, speakers, heads of delegations, two kings? I spent £2,300.
"I don’t think that’s an excessive amount of money and indeed it is somehow expected of Westminster, which is the mother of all Parliaments."
Baroness D'Souza argued there were times she had to take a hire car on security grounds, adding:
"Out of the two years, I think I made something like 120 journeys, of which 10 were by the car, the rest were by self drive or by tube or the occasional taxi.
"So I think in context, I think it was a somewhat unfair attack."
The TaxPayers' Alliance, however, said it was right that the peer's expenses should be challenged.
"It is entirely reasonable to raise questions about the expenses of a public office when taxpayers are picking up the tab," said Dia Chakravarty, the political director of the pressure group.
"People understand that there will be reasonable expenses associated with entertaining dignitaries but to scrutinise them and probe into expenses which don't immediately make sense is a part of our democratic right.
"Baroness D'Souza should accept that this level of scrutiny comes with her office along with its pomp and prestige."
Elsewhere four peers - Lord Bridges, Lord Neill of Blaydon, Lord Thomas of Macclesfield and Baroness Lady Thomas of Walliswood - have lost their member status of the House of Lords.
They ceased to be members after they failed to turn up to any proceedings during the 2015-16 session and consequently breached section 2 of the House of Lords Reforms Act 2014.
Baroness D’Souza said: "On behalf of the House I should like to thank the noble Lords for their much valued service to the House."