A former Tory peer accused of lying about his expenses told a court he viewed the system as being “in lieu of salary”.
Lord Taylor of Warwick is accused of claiming for travel costs between a home in Oxford and the House of Lords when he actually lived in the capital.
He told the jury at Southwark Crown Court that he had acted on advice from Lord Colwyn that he should state his address as being outside of London.
Lord Taylor said: “It was in lieu of salary because there was no realistic prospect – because of the image of the House of Lords – of lords being paid. The policy was to claim the maximum because the reality is, in terms of expenditure, you were spending far more than you were able to claim back. This was a contribution towards your costs.”
He answered “no” when asked by Mohammed Khamisa QC, defending, if he had ever made false claims for allowances or been in trouble with the police.
Lord Taylor said he took a significant pay cut when he entered the House of Lords.
When he was a lawyer, he said he earned about £100,000 a year but it “dropped alarmingly” to £50,000 when he spent most of his time on his parliamentary duties.
The former Tory peer described how he was brought up in a poor area of Birmingham and how he reached his position as the first black member of the House of Lords through careers in law, the media and charity work.
He told the court how he was offered a peerage by John Major in 1996 after narrowly missing out on a seat in Parliament a few years before and how he learned to tolerate constant racial abuse.
He said he felt he had made a big commitment when he took his seat in the Lords at the age of 43. He added: “A lot was expected of me. I had great respect for John Major, and frankly, I didn’t want to let him down.”