MPs in new expenses row over London homes

MPs were accused of claiming expenses for renting and using hotels in London despite owning properties in the capital

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Almost 50 MPs were accused last night of claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds in expenses for renting and using hotels in London despite owning properties in the capital.

Many of the 46 MPs are said to have originally purchased the London properties using taxpayer-funded second home mortgages under the expense regime that existed before the 2009 scandal when widespread abuses were exposed.

Mortgage claims were banned after the scandal but some MPs started letting out the London properties and started claiming expenses for rent and hotels, according to Channel 4 News.

The programme said that the MPs were doing nothing wrong under the rules set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which runs the expenses system, but the claims will doubtless be questioned by voters.

Some MPs were said to have argued that the new rules banning mortgage claims meant they had been forced to let out their second home in order to be able to afford the mortgage and other costs.

But Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee for Standards in Public Life, told the programme: "It's not always just about exactly what the rules say. It is about you taking personal responsibility that public funds are used in a proper and appropriate way.

"I'm sure we will hear all sorts of sob stories about why it's justifiable to do what they've done. But they must know in their heart of hearts that the public will see this as MPs on the make."

The 46 MPs include 25 Conservatives, 14 Labour, and four Liberal Democrats. Among those named by Channel 4 was Angus MacNeil of the Scottish National Party who owns a flat in Lambeth. Since 2012/13 he claimed £42,177 to stay in hotels in Westminster.

Mr MacNeil told Channel 4 the current expenses rules were to blame and that MPs should be allowed to claim for flats they own, as they did in the past. He said: "Ipsa should stand up to media pressures and enable MPs to take up cheaper accommodation alternatives in London, something that they currently do not support in regard of own flats."