'Serious questions' for Cash over £15,000 rent payment to daughter

Tory leader's comments put future of veteran Eurosceptic MP in doubt
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Indy Politics

The veteran Tory MP Bill Cash mounted a defiant attempt to save his career last night as he promised to return more than £15,000 of taxpayers' money that ended up in his daughter's pocket.

The veteran Tory MP Bill Cash mounted a defiant attempt to save his career last night as he promised to return more than £15,000 of taxpayers' money that ended up in his daughter's pocket.

He used the money to rent a flat from her – even though he had another property within 10 minutes' walk of Westminster. Mr Cash's future was in the balance after David Cameron damningly said that the MP for Stone, in Staffordshire, had "very serious questions to answer".

He became the latest MP in the eye of the expenses storm after it emerged that he paid his daughter, Laetitia, £1,200 a month from parliamentary allowances to rent her flat in Notting Hill, west London, during 2004 and 2005. Laetitia, who is on the "A-list" of Tory candidates, was away from the property much of the time because she was fighting the general election as the Tory candidate in Salford.

Her father chose to be her tenant, despite owning a one-bedroom flat in Pimlico, south-west London, where his son, Sam, was living rent-free. He moved out of his daughter's home shortly before she sold the property for a reported profit of £48,000 – a figure he disputes. After he left the flat he stayed in clubs – including rooms in the Garrick and Carlton – as well as hotels and with friends.

Renting from family members is banned by the Commons authorities, but was allowed at the time of Mr Cash's claims. Mr Cash, an MP for 25 years, hit back at the disclosures, vowing not to step down over expenses claims he regarded as "reasonable".

There had been no "financial advantage" from the arrangement with his daughter, he said, and that the claim had been within the rules. "I had to live somewhere to perform my parliamentary duties. The rent which was agreed was a reasonable rent and the tenancy agreement had been cleared by the Fees Office in advance," he added.

Mr Cash discussed the storm with the Conservative chief whip, Patrick McLoughlin, and agreed to pay back the money. Whether the move will be enough to save him is likely to depend on the reaction of constituents and the findings of a party panel examining its MPs' claims. But Mr Cameron earlier made plain his anger at the latest expenses allegations to confront a senior MP. The Tory leader said: "Bill Cash has got some very serious questions to answer and he needs to answer those questions. He needs to co-operate with inquiries."

Mr Cash employs his wife, Bridget, as his parliamentary/research assistant on a salary between £14,212 and £34,240. Their main home is a country house near Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Mr Cash said he "personally" expected to defend his seat at the next election.

The disclosures are followed by more embarrassing news for the Tories this morning. The Daily Telegraph states that Humfrey Malins, the MP for Woking who also serves as a High Court judge, has claimed £58,000 in taxpayer-funded expenses for a flat in which his children have stayed rent-free. Eleanor Laing, a Justice spokeswoman, made a profit of £1m on her tax-payer funded property and has not paid £180,000 in capital gains tax, it was claimed. She designated the property as her "second home" to parliamentary authorities, but told tax authorities it was her "principal residence".

Inquiry launched into MP payoffs

The generous "golden goodbyes" paid to MPs quitting the Commons after the expenses scandal are to be investigated by the anti-sleaze watchdog the Committee on Standards in Public Life, after The Independent disclosed yesterday that the 12 MPs who have already announced their departure would receive pay-offs totalling £1.1m when they step down, before pensions.