Peers were last night facing demands for an inquiry into their expenses after it emerged that members of the House of Lords with second homes in London were claiming tens of thousands of pounds a year in overnight allowances .
No proof is required to claim the subsistence allowance, worth up to £165.50 a night, which is designed to help peers who live in the country to attend late-night votes and debates in Parliament.
Peers who live full-time in London are not entitled to the perk, but those who have two homes and declare their country residence as their main home can claim, even if it is only used at weekends. They do not have to provide any evidence that their main residence is where they spend most of their time.
The furore over MPs' expenses triggered by Derek Conway, the Tory MP who employed his sons as researchers, has prompted an inquiry into Commons allowances. So far peers have escaped such scrutiny.
Among those who claimed last year was the Labour peer Baroness Billingham, who has a flat in Hampstead and a country house in Suffolk to which she normally returns on Thursday nights. Billingham claimed £26,983 in 2006-07, the last year for which figures are available, and said she had not been asked to provide any proof to support her claim. 'I think a lot of things are based on trust, to be absolutely honest with you,' she said.
Others with property in London who claim the expenses include the Labour peer and former senior trade unionist Lord Brett, who lists his address in Who's Who as a flat in the Dolphin Square complex near Westminster, but declares his main residence as his home in Cumbria. He claimed £27,887 last year.