20 September 2023

Call to allow peers to stay on barge amid concern over London hotel prices

20 September 2023

Peers should be able to stay on a barge moored outside Parliament as London hotels are getting too expensive, according to a former minister.

Labour’s Lord Foulkes of Cumnock made the suggestion for peers living outside London who need accommodation in the capital while attending the House of Lords.

Peers are not paid a salary but can claim a tax-free allowance of £342 for each day they attend, with Lord Foulkes claiming “escalating” hotel costs are “using up all” of this money.

Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth said he will inform the Port of London Authority of the suggestion.

Laughter could be heard during the exchange, which came as Lord Murray faced questions about measures taken to prevent the spread of infections on barges used to house migrants.

The Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, has been out of use since August after people were evacuated following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

These are civilised living accommodation and clearly I shall be informing the Port of London Authority of the noble Lord's suggestion

Lord Foulkes said: “Once it’s clear that the barges are safe and have no danger to health, could he arrange for one of the barges to be brought up the Thames and moored outside the Houses of Parliament to provide accommodation for peers from outwith London who are finding the increased, escalating costs of hotels in London is using up all of our daily attendance allowance?”

Lord Murray replied: “I have a certain sympathy with the noble Lord’s point.

“I can reassure him that the use of barges to house asylum seekers is done routinely by our friends in Europe.

“The German government themselves housed asylum seekers on this very barge between 1995 and 1998, the Dutch government and the Belgium government have equally done so.

“The standard of accommodation is high and (Lord Foulkes) will recall the Scottish Government housed Ukrainian asylum seekers on two vessels in Scotland, and I think one of those vessels, the MS Victoria, was used to house policemen during the Olympics.

“These are civilised living accommodation and clearly I shall be informing the Port of London Authority of the noble Lord’s suggestion.”

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