MPs are claiming expenses to stay in London hotels while they let out properties elsewhere in the city, it emerged last night.
A minister, two shadow ministers and at least six other MPs have slapped in bills for overnight hotel stays in the capital, within miles of properties they own and rent out.
The Independent on Sunday revealed two years ago that, months after a tougher expenses regime began, MPs were claiming expenses to rent London houses within miles of properties they were letting out. Last week it emerged that more than 20 MPs were now "London landlords" – in at least one case letting property to another MP – yet living elsewhere and claiming accommodation.
Figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which administers MPs' expenses, reveal that at least eight of these have submitted a total of 71 claims for staying in hotels in the London area during the two-and-a-half years the new system has been in operation. Most of the claims were for stays of several nights. Two MPs have submitted bills totalling more than £8,000.
MPs last night claimed the new rules had forced some into moving into rented accommodation – and hotels – as they can no longer get their mortgage interest paid on expenses. A number of MP landlords have insisted they cannot sell their homes because they are in negative equity. All of the MPs are acting within the expenses rules.
But critics claimed many MPs have failed to learn the lessons of the scandal three years ago, when there was a public outcry over the extravagant claims being made. Robert Oxley, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "MPs know that voters will take a dim view of politicians claiming for hotels and flats when they already own property in London that has previously been funded by taxpayers. Hotels will appear particularly extravagant.
"Expenses are there to cover the extra cost of living in two places, not to help politicians profit from property."
IPSA rules state that MPs can claim hotel accommodation of up to £150 a night in the London area if they do not intend to claim rent or when they are forced to work late. MPs' hotel stays have now cost the taxpayer almost £900,000 since 2010.
Official figures from the authority show that, since 2010, the Tory MP George Freeman has claimed for almost 200 nights in the category "Hotel London Area", at a total cost of £8,680.50. His entry in the Register of Members' Interests includes the detail: "Flat in London, from which I receive rent." Mr Freeman's colleague David Amess, whose constituency is Southend West, has been refunded £8,095.20 for hotel stays. He also declares a "residential property in London from which rental income is received".
The other MP landlords who have claimed for hotel stays include the Liberal Democrat minister Don Foster, shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy, and Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster. Aides last night pointed out that some of the payments were for "interim hotel stays", while the MPs had been looking for new homes in the capital.
Mr Foster, a minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government, said yesterday he had done nothing wrong. He added: "I now pay rent at a charge to the taxpayer of £1,250 a month, whereas if I had been able to stay in my house, it would have cost £900.
"I had to stay in a hotel when I was forced to move out of my house; it was what IPSA advised."