Labour MP's breach of rules costs him £65,000

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Indy Politics

A Labour backbencher has been forced to surrender a £65,000 pay-out after Westminster's sleaze watchdog found he had committed a "particularly serious breach" of expenses rules.

Harry Cohen, the MP for Leyton and Wanstead in east London, will also have to apologise to Parliament after he was found to have rented out a property designated as his main home.

Mr Cohen did not live in the property in Colchester, Essex, for long periods of time, the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee said. He continued to register the house as his main home between 2004 and 2008, even though he and his wife spent most of their time in his constituency. It allowed him to claim more than £70,000 from the second home allowance during the period. The committee said that had Mr Cohen been treated as an outer London MP with just one home, he would have been entitled to claim just £9,000.

He will now become the first MP to be forced to forfeit the £65,000 "resettlement grant" given to those leaving Parliament. Mr Cohen had already announced that he will step down at the next general election. Though the recommended punishment will have to be voted through by the Commons as a whole, it is highly unlikely that MPs will fight the measures against Mr Cohen.