Former MPs are still making money through the Parliamentary expenses system by renting out their London properties to ex-colleagues who remain in the House of Commons, it has emerged.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has released a list of around 300 MPs who are claiming rental allowances for their second home from the taxpayer and who they are renting the properties from.
It suggests that around 30 MPs, who own properties in London which were financed by the taxpayer are letting out those properties while charging the taxpayer for renting another property.
But it also shows six former MPs are currently the landlords of serving Members and receiving a rental income from the taxpayer.
These include Baroness Tonge, the Liberal Democrat peer, who claimed mortgage interest on her second home allowance when she served as an MP until 2005. She now leases the property to Stephen Williams who in turn recovers the rent from the taxpayer. She said she rents the property out at “way below the market value”.
Also on the list is the former Forest of Dean MP Diana Organ who was told in 2010 that had to pay back nearly £12,000 worth of expenses which had illegitimately claimed on her London property following the expenses scandal. She now rents the same flat to the Labour MP Julie Hilling. She last night confirmed that she was the landlady but stressed the rental was entirely legitimate.
“I am a private citizen who is renting out a property in the normal way,” she said.
However the full extent of the MPs and former MPs who are renting out their homes other Parliamentarian maybe an underestimate as many of the details of landlords have been redacted for reasons of security.
IPSA said it had redacted the names of landlords where publication could result in a MPs exact address being identifiable or where they had raised concerns with Parliamentary Authorities over their security.
The rules of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) state that “members of Parliament must not exploit the system for personal financial advantage”.
It is currently carrying out a consultation on whether MPs should be able to rent properties from MPs or former MPs who may have had the mortgages on those properties previously paid by the taxpayer.
Among MPs who have claim rental for property – despite owning houses or flats in London include John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the culture, media and sport committee, the Tory MP Mark Pritchard and John Denham, a former Labour cabinet minister.
Labour’s Michael Meacher was also found to have moved out of his home in Oldham to rent a new property, while Pat McFadden, a Labour former minister, did the same in Wolverhampton.
Mr Whittingdale said he would have “much preferred not to have had to do” it but it was a direct consequence of the change in the rules which stopped MPs from claiming for mortgage payments.
“It has long been my view that the system of allowances is illogical, unnecessarily costly to the taxpayer and anomalous. This is an example of that.
Mr Denham stressed he was not benefiting financially from the new arrangement. He said: “I would strongly prefer to revert to the previous arrangement. This was also, of course, very significantly cheaper for the taxpayer. This option does not exist under the Ipsa rules. I have had to let the property in order to maintain mortgage payments on it.”
Who made the list?
Karl Turner, MP for Hull East rents his property from the RMT Union. In the House of Commons he has described the head of the union Bob Crow as “a very good friend of mine”.
The Conservative MP Peter Luff’s registered landlord is Frank Lampard. He said he did not know if it was the Chelsea footballer as his letting agents not divulge the information.
The Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert rents his London flat from the former Channel Four political editor Elinor Goodman who is currently assisting Lord Leveson with his inquiry into press standards.
The Conservative head of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee John Whittingdale moved out of a flat he had owned for years and moved into a nearby property, with a higher rental claim on his expenses.
William Hague’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Keith Simpson rents a property from the former Tory MP Lord Flight. Lord Flight was forced to stand down as an MP in 2005 after being secretly recorded saying the Conservatives in office could make more spending cuts than they were promising in their general election campaign.