DISGRACED peer Lord Hanningfield has revealed he is looking to use his prison experience to help others.

The former Tory leader of Essex County Council, who served a quarter of a nine-month sentence for fiddling his House of Lords expenses, says he has returned to his patrliamentary work.

He has advertised for a researcher to help him with a new reform campaign.

Lord Hanningfield – real name Paul White – wants the staffer to help him work on a plan for prison reform and mental health improvements from October.

He said: “The whole idea of prison reform is to stop reoffending and to give young people a chance before we get a new generation in prison.

“I saw how the young children suffer and how prison visitor rooms are like playschool.

“The young people themselves are not getting the help for the future they need and a lot more needs to be done.”

Lord Hanningfield claimed nearly £14,000 for overnight stays in London and journeys he never made or someone else paid for. On one occasion, he was on a plane to India.

He suggested he may not have been jailed were it not for the public and media furore surrounding the expenses scandal.

He claims his age, 71, gives him a unique perspective, coupled with 40 years of public service. He still struggles to come to terms with his imprisonment. He added: “There are not many people like me.

“I was in for a short time. Other people wouldn’t have been jailed for £13,000 of parliamentary expenses, but it was all hyped up by the media, so there was no choice.

“But having had the experience, I know there needs to be reform and improvement in the education offered in prison to people, some of whom can’t read or write.”

Lord Hanningfield is also hoping to increase people’s understanding of mental health issues. He said: “I have been through acute depression myself and had to have treatment for it.

“A lot of people are in prison with mental problems and a lot were involved in crime because of the same mental problems.

“For me, it was more traumatic before I was in prison because of the publicity, but I have learnt from it and want to use the experience to help others now.”