Police will investigate MPs' expenses claims

Politicians who claimed for 'phantom mortgages' come under scrutiny

A criminal investigation into allegations of fraudulent expenses claims by MPs and peers is to be launched by the Metropolitan Police, Scotland Yard announced last night. Detectives are likely to concentrate on those who claimed for "phantom mortgages"when their home loans had already been paid off.

The move – agreed by Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service – comes after informal meetings between senior officers and Commons officials. The Met refused to discuss which politicians it would be investigating, but did say that the inquiry will be conducted by its economic crime unit. While it is likely that it will concentrate on the phantom mortgage cases, the expenses claims of other politicians are also being scrutinised to assess whether there are grounds for a full investigation.

Labour member David Chaytor, who claimed interest payments for a mortgage he had already paid off, has confirmed he is one of the MPs under investigation, while Elliot Morley, another Labour MP who has admitted wrongfully claiming £16,000, said he would be happy to "fully co-operate with any inquiry". A Labour peer, Baroness Uddin, reportedly claimed a Maidstone flat as her main residence so she could access expenses granted to peers living outside London, despite the flat allegedly being empty.

The news that Labour politicians face police investigations will come as a fresh blow to Gordon Brown who today admits he has been "hurt" by the personal attacks on him during the failed attempt to force him out of Downing St.

In an interview with The Guardian he said: "To be honest, you could walk away from all of this tomorrow ... I'm not interested in what accompanies being in power. I wouldn't worry if I never returned to all those places – Downing Street, Chequers ... And it would probably be good for my children."

The police investigation was announced as MPs scrambled to hand back money in the wake of the expenses scandal. According to parliamentary figures, 183 MPs have so far returned almost £480,000 to the Commons Fees Office.

A succession of senior ministers including Ed Balls, his wife Yvette Cooper, David Miliband and Rosie Winterton have repaid thousands of pounds because of mistakes in claims on their mortgages for their second homes.

Ms Winterton, the new Communities minister, returned £8,247 after it emerged that she had claimed for the capital on her mortgage and not just the interest to which MPs are entitled.

Mr Balls, the Schools Secretary, and Ms Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, each returned £1,350, explaining that the repayments reflected falling borrowing rates. Mr Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, returned £434, while Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, paid back £2,742 of mistaken overpayments by the Fees Office for rent and mortgage interest. Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, repaid £12,600 because he had rented out a property for which he was claiming second homes allowance.

One of the biggest repayments was from junior Culture minister Barbara Follett, wife of the author Ken Follett, who gave back £32,976 that she had claimed for security at her London home and the cleaning of a child's rug she had "claimed in error".

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, had already promised to pay back £660 covering the service charge for a flat he had already let out, and is now returning a further £298 representing his share of the ground rent and television licence in the flat while it had a tenant. The man who aspires to replace him, Mr Osborne, is repaying £1,194. He has already returned £440 he claimed for a taxi ride and is also giving back almost £100 for an "administrative error" over mortgage interest and a £654 claim for insurance.

Hilary Armstrong, the former Chief Whip, repaid £5,500 for food claims she admitted were "tacky", while Keith Vaz, the former Foreign Office minister, is returning £18,949 "having read the comments of local people".

Members of the Tory front bench are also returning almost £30,000 to the taxpayer. They include Michael Gove, the shadow Schools Secretary, who is repaying £7,000 claimed for furniture, and Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, who is giving back £5,700 for furnishings. Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, is returning £2,600 for home improvements, while Nick Herbert, the shadow Justice Secretary, is repaying £865 in mortgage interest and £329 for a car phone and SatNav kit.

Elsewhere, The Daily Telegraph today claims that over 50 MPs – including former ministers David Blunkett and Beverley Hughes, and shadow ministers Jeremy Hunt and David Willetts – claimed for more council tax than they paid. Until last year, Parliament only required receipts for expenses of over £250. But when the rules were changed many MPs suddenly reduced the amount they were claiming. Several had claimed round figures, such as £150 or £200 a month, which are unlikely to reflect the accurate cost of their council tax bills, while others made 12 monthly claims when their payments were split into 10 instalments.

In the spotlight Second homes and 'accounting errors'

Elliot Morley

*Received £16,000 for a mortgage on his constituency home in Scunthorpe for 18 months after the mortgage had been paid off. Subsequently blamed the claims on "sloppy accounting" but has said he will stand down at the next election. He was one of 98 MPs who voted to keep expenses claims secret.

Baroness Uddin

*Classified a flat in Maidstone, Kent, as her main home, which allowed her to claim £30,000 a year in expenses for peers living outside London. But neighbours claimed the flat remained unoccupied since she bought it, and that it was completely unfurnished. She denies these claims.

David Chaytor

*Claimed £13,000 for a "phantom mortgage". Received £1,175 between September 2005 and August 2006 for mortgage interest on his Westminster flat, even though the mortgage was paid off in 2004. He blamed an "error in my accounting" and has said he will stand down at the next election.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?