LORD Laird tends to get a fairly easy ride in the media; he gives good quotes, occasionally stumbles onto a half-decent story and is a colourful character who thinks he understands PR. None of which excuses the fact that this bumbling buffoon costs you and me more than anyone else in the House of Lords – despite only having spoken seven times in the upper house last year.
What is particularly galling is that while the one-man Ulster-Scots cross-border taxi service is happy to point the finger at others for being a waste of money, he doesn’t seem to realise that this is how many see him. According to the Independent:
The official record of Lords expenses, published yesterday, shows that Lord Laird claimed his daily attendance allowance 145 times, at a cost of £12,319. He also claimed £30,734 for staying overnight in London, and £14,564 for flights between London and his home in Ulster. With office costs of nearly £14,000, including £598 for postage, and other travel costs, the total came to £73,206.
The article adds:
The 65 year old peer, who began his career in banking and later founded the Belfast firm, John Laird Public Relations, was the youngest member of the Northern Ireland parliament in 1970, when he took over the seat vacated when his father died. He was then an Ulster Unionist, but sits in the Lords as a cross bencher.
In 2000, he ran into criticism when it was discovered that he had spent over £1,000 in three months on meals in the House of Lords, for which he billed the publicly funded Ulster-Scots Agency, of which he was chairman.
Government auditors also criticised his taxi bills, including £260 for a return trip from Belfast to Dublin. Lord Laird said that there a security reason that he needed to use taxis, because he often travelled in a kilt, which made him conspicuous.