Lord Hanningfield's first interview since returning to the Lords

From the House of Lords to a prison cell... and now back to the House of Lords.

The rise and fall of Lord Hanningfield has been steep. Born Paul White he was a pig farmer, became a local politician in Essex, the leader of the County Council and then Lord Hanningfield, a frontbench spokesperson for the Conservative Party. A 40 year political career.

But then the expenses scandal was uncovered. Lord Hanningfield was one of 6 parliamentarians who faced court and then jail for fiddling expenses.

Lord Hanningfield
Lord Hanningfield walking his dog Jefferson Credit: ITV Anglia

He was found guilty at Chelmsford Crown court of claiming more than £13,000 of parliamentary expenses he wasn't entitled to, including money for overnight stays in London when he'd actually been at home in the village of West Hanningfield in Essex.

He went to prison but served just 10 weeks of a 9 month sentence and returned home last September.

House of Lords authorities suspended him until he'd paid back £28,000 to Parliament, he did so, and returned to the House of Lords last month.

In his first TV interview since going back to Parliament he told Anglia Tonight he's sorry for what he did and realises it was wrong, but says he hopes he can influence prison reform by being back in the Lords.

He says he was apprehensive about returning to the Lords, but not ashamed or embarrased to go back.

His defence at his trial was in part that his expense claims were not unusual, claiming there were many other peers routinely claiming overnight expenses. On his return to Parliament he says he received a warm welcome from former colleagues and friends.

Lord Hanningfield
Lord Hanningfield outside court Credit: PA

Describing the last two years as very difficult he told me he's relied on friends in Essex and his beloved pet dog Jefferson, saying the weeks spent apart while he was in prison were tough. He had a friend look after his dog. There were tears when they were reunited.

Lord Hanningfield sympathises with fellow politicians under fire in the expenses scandal, saying he can understand why one MP wanted to throw himself under a train. But despite the pressures he is determined to return to public life as part of his rehabilitation.

He wants to focus on prison reform issue rather than "politics". And he says he double checks all his expenses claims.

He is not the first peer to return to work after serving time in prison. Jeffrey Archer went back to the Lords after a jail sentence for perjury. Lord Hanningfield says he has recieved very many letters of support over the past two years and very few critical words. But rebuilding a reputation won't be easy .