Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin
|The Right Honourable
The Baroness Uddin
|Born||Manzila Pola Uddin
17 July 1959
Rajshahi, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)
|Alma mater||University of North London|
The first female Muslim in the House of Lords, she was investigated as part of the parliamentary expenses scandal and required to repay over £120,000. She was suspended from membership of the House of Lords from October 2010 until May 2012.
Uddin was born in a village in Bangladesh. She moved with her parents to the United Kingdom in 1973, when she was 13 years of age, and she grew up in the East End of London. She attended the Plashet School in East Ham, and was educated at the University of North London, where she earned a Diploma in social work.
Uddin started her professional career by creating and leading community working groups in the late 1970s. In 1980, she started working as a Youth and Community worker with the YWCA, and then a Liaison Officer for Tower Hamlets Social Services, and Manager of Tower Hamlets Women's Health Project. She then began working for Newham social services in 1988. In 1990, Uddin was elected a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the first Bangladeshi woman to hold such an office of a local authority in the United Kingdom, which she served for two years. She then became the Deputy Leader of Tower Hamlets council, from 1994 to 1996.
In 1997, she applied to be a candidate for the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, but did not reach the shortlist. She was raised to the peerage as Baroness Uddin, of Bethnal Green in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, for life by Letters patent in the afternoon of 18 July 1998, at the House of Lords. She was the youngest woman on the benches and the only Muslim and Bangladeshi woman to be appointed to the House of Lords. She was invited to the House of Lords for her contribution to the advancement of women and disability rights, swearing in by saying "Almighty Allah" as she took her seat in the parliament. Since entering the House of Lords she has supported a handful of initiatives. She has received a national and international reputation as a leader in promoting women's equal rights, including human rights, in Britain and abroad.
Uddin has been long campaigning for the increase of skills of Asian women living in Britain. She created the first purpose-built education and training centre for Asian women in the UK called the Jagonari Centre, located at Whitechapel, East London, in 1999. Uddin is a member of the EOP Implementation Committee, and a trustee of St Katherine's and Shadwell Trust.
In 2005, she was selected as part of a delegation to tackle Islamic extremism by Tony Blair. However, in August 2006, Uddin was a signatory to an open letter to Tony Blair criticising the UK's foreign policy. It was an open letter criticising the government's stance on the Middle East. It was signed by three Muslim MPs (which included Sadiq Khan and Mohammed Sarwar), three peers and 38 community groups. The letter was criticised by the then Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells who criticised Muslim leaders for condemning British foreign policy. In 2008, she was made the chairwoman of the ethnic minority women's taskforce.
In 2009 Uddin was nominated for the shortlist of female Peer of the Year at the Women In Public Life Awards though was ultimately unsuccessful.
In 2010, The National Executive Committee of The Labour Party suspended Uddin indefinitely from the Party in light of the expenses claim allegations.
In October 2010, Under the recommendation of The Privileges and Conduct Committee of The House of Lords a suspension is to be handed down to Pola Uddin until Easter 2012 at the earliest for claiming expenses "to which she was not entitled". The Committee also acknowledged a repayment agreement for expenses wrongly claimed.
According to a May 2009 investigation by The Sunday Times Insight team, Uddin claims on her House of Lords Expenses that a flat in Maidstone, Kent is her main residence on which she has claimed £30,000 per annum in tax-free expenses since 2005. This is said to have allowed her to also claim the second home allowance on her London property, a scheme that ostensibly exists to compensate politicians living outside London for the cost of accommodation close to Parliament. Residents living near the flat in Maidstone reportedly said they had not seen any occupiers in the flat since Uddin purchased it and that it has remained completely unfurnished, but Uddin claims: "The Maidstone property is furnished and I strongly deny that I have never lived there". Uddin's husband even denied having a property in Kent when questioned on the issue by the Times, and she appeared on the electoral roll at her London address from 1996 to date. Additionally her Facebook page states how she has lived in the East End of London for over 30 years.
Uddin claimed a total of £29,675 for accommodation in 2007–08, a time when the maximum daily accommodation claim was £165 a day. Her bill represents a claim at the maximum possible rate for 179 days, more days than the Lords actually sat that year.
Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson called for an investigation on the report to the House of Lords authorities and the police. Based on Land Registry records, it shows Uddin bought the two-bedroom flat on the first floor in central Maidstone in September 2005 for £155,000. Neighbours living near Uddin's other property in Wapping have insisted they have seen her daily coming and going; she is known as 'auntie' by the Bangladeshi community. Uddin said, "I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or breached any House of Lords rules." She stated "I strongly deny that I have never lived there. Indeed I have stayed there regularly since buying it".
Uddin has in fact claimed her main home has been outside of London since 2001, earning an extra £83,000 as a result. Despite repeated questioning she has refused to state the location and details of her main home between 2001 and 2005 for which expenses were also claimed. In January 2010 The Times newspaper revealed the property she had claimed for during this period was owned and occupied by her brother and his family, with Uddin's sister-in-law stating she couldn't recollect the Peer ever living there. She also has one of the highest claims for overnight subsistence of any member of the Lords.
Uddin's home in Wapping, where she lives and is registered to vote, is a housing association property. Spitalfields Housing Association received a public subsidy of £37.8 million in 2008. The average rent for its properties is £104 a week, a sixth of the market rate. The allegations of fraud led the Tory opposition leader in Tower Hamlets, Peter Golds, to state, "Lady Uddin is depriving a low-income family of a home which was built for the needy at public expense". On 5 May 2009, one of the senior Lord's official, Clerk of the Parliaments, has announced the House of Lords authorities are investigating the report by the Sunday Times. Uddin welcomed the review: "I welcome this review and will co-operate fully with him in the hope of a speedy resolution and clarity that I did not break the rules of the House."
On 23 November 2009, Uddin's cases was passed to the police for possible prosecution for fraud. The Daily Telegraph later reported that she was refusing to cooperate with the police investigation, refusing to answer any questions.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced on 10 March 2010 that Baroness Uddin would not face any charges on the grounds that a senior parliamentary official ruled that a Peers “main house” might be a place they visit only once a month. There were no indications that the expenses would be paid back.
On 18 October 2010, the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee ruled that Baroness Uddin had 'acted in bad faith' and recommended that she should be asked to repay £125,349 as well as being suspended from Parliament until Easter 2012.
On 21 October 2010 the House of Lords voted to accept the committee's recommendations. However, in November 2011, it was revealed that no formal mechanism existed to prevent Baroness Uddin's return to the House of Lords, even if she refused to repay the expenses that were fraudulently claimed, leading many members of her own party to call for her to resign rather than bring the House of Lords into further disrepute.
In December 2011 the House Committee in the Lords recommended that Uddin and Lord Hanningfield should not be allowed back to the Lords until the outstanding expenses had been repaid. The money was repaid in 2012 with the help of £124,000 of loans from friends, and she returned to membership of the House of Lords in May 2012.
The amount of money quoted in her case (£125,349) is probably the largest amount in any of the House of Commons or House of Lords expenses scandals.
Further expenses claims by Uddin were later discovered when The Sunday Times revealed that she owns a mansion in Bangladesh. The mansion was described as made out of Italian marble with tiles, mosaics and with a balcony. The mansion was believed to have been built after Uddin became a peer in 1998, costing £140,000 which was organised by her husband Komar, located in Jawa Bazar in Chhatak; this is where many of her in-laws are originally from. However Uddin claims that the land was bought by her husband's family, purchased by Kumar's father in 1980.
Uddin is married to Komar Uddin; his family are originally from Chhatak, Sunamganj in Sylhet. Together they have four sons and one daughter. Uddin lives with her family in a Housing Association house in Wapping in the borough of Tower Hamlets, but also claims to live in Maidstone in Kent.
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