The accused: More MPs named and shamed
Monday 18 May 2009
The Tory MP, who represents Penrith and The Border in Cumbria, spent £20,000 of taxpayers' cash on a property before selling it on for £750,000. Mr Maclean, who was the key architect of a Bill to exempt parliament from aspects of freedom of information law, listed the property with the taxman as his main home. He therefore did not pay capital gains tax. He was entitled to the money because the property was designated as his “second home” with the Commons authorities, yet Mr Maclean did not pay capital gains tax on the sale because the taxman accepted it was his main home. Following the sale of his Cumbrian farmhouse, Mr Maclean “flipped” his allowance to a £550,000 flat in Westminster. This meant a rise in the claims of mortgage interest repayments from £5,000 a year to almost £9,000. The 56-year-old also spent more than £10,000 over two years on service charges for his flat in an exclusive apartment block close to the Houses of Parliament. Between 2006 and 2008 he also claimed £3,728 on refurbishing the Westminster flat, including £599.90 at John Lewis and £504.14 with Lakeland, a kitchen supplier.
He denies switching designations to avoid paying tax.
The Labour MP for Tyne Bridge told the Commons authorities that his partner wanted to end their joint ownership of a London flat because of the “increasingly bureaucratic” system of MPs’ expenses, and possible “press intrusion” into their financial affairs. Using the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA), Mr Clelland was repaid £431.36 in legal costs racked up buying out his partner’s interest in his London flat. As a result of his property buy-out, taxpayers were left contributing an additional £198.67 a month towards the MP’s increased mortgage interest repayments. Mr Clelland married the following year. The former government whip, also had a four-year dispute with the Commons fees office over his claims for minor household products including £2.98 for Cillit bleach, 89p for pedal bin liners, 36p for fuses, £1.48 for Cif Oxy Wipes and £1.06 for Windolene. The MP said that there was "nothing illegal or improper" in the claims he has made.
The shadow defence minister claimed more than £7,000 from the taxpayer for redecorating his second home and installing new kitchen appliances. But when he claimed £6,000 in expenses for a wooden floor, he was told by the fees office in the Commons this might be perceived as extravagant. The 57-year-old Conservative defence spokesman asked for the money as part of an £11,914 redecoration project at the London flat he designated as his second home. He successfully claimed £4,870 for upgrading the property but was told that the remaining £5,995 plus VAT for a wooden floor with acoustic underlay would not be allowed. He also claimed £352.50 in legal fees for settling a dispute over unpaid property service charges, as well as £119 for a wall-mounted trouser press, £5 for a “sweater tidy” and £4 for wax polish. Mr Lewis, the MP for New Forest East, in Hampshire, wrote on a Conservative blog earlier this year: “I live without extravagance and I don’t like borrowing money.” Yesterday Mr Lewis said the Westminster expenses system was "rotten" but insisted he had only used it to carry out essential maintenance and had not abused the system.
A senior election co-ordinator for Labour, Mr Kemp made a number of claims on similar items for his London flat over a short period of time. The 50-year-old Labour MP for Houghton and Washington East claimed for two DVD players in one month, and 16 sheets in the space of seven weeks. He also claimed for two flat-screen TVs a year apart. One of the TVs, valued at £1,699, was turned down by the fees office. But rather than pay for the television himself, Mr Kemp took it back to the store and got a refund. While living in a small flat designated as his second home in Pimlico near the House of Commons, he put through a claim for £47.94 for six sheets. A month later, he bought six more sheets, seven pillowcases and eight throws for £141.77. Three weeks after that, he bought four more sheets for £45.72. He claimed £89.97 for a DVD player in April 2004, then the following month bought another for £69.99 and claimed that back. Mr Kemp has now said he will be paying back some money.
The Labour MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire must have the cleanest second home in Westminster. Mr Hall, a backbencher, charged nearly £15,000 in three years for his small, two-storey house in Kennington to be cleaned and for his clothes to be laundered and ironed. In 2005/06 Mr Hall claimed £5,194 towards his cleaning bills. This fell to £4,346 in 2006/07 before rising to £5,408 last year. Each month, the MP claimed between £100 and £200 on “cleaning” and a further £110 a month on dry cleaning, laundry and ironing. On top of this he submitted monthly claims for up to £250 for what he referred to as “household sundries”. Mr Hall did not submit any proof of this regular expenditure because at that time only claims above £250, other than for food, had to be evidenced by an invoice or receipt. Mr Hall said his claims were “legitimate and reasonable.”
The junior justice minister spent thousands of pounds of expenses on refurbishing a bathroom at one of her flats before switching, or “flipping”, the designation to another property. Ms Eagle, who is MP for Liverpool Garston, was paid £3,500 towards the cost of rennovating the bathroom at the property in the Mossley Hill area of the city. She also claimed up to £240 under the Additional Costs Allowance system for the monthly cost of the interest on her mortgage. Four months later, in 2006, she changed her second home designation to a flat in Camberwell, which she had bought in 1999. After the change, her claim for mortgage interest payments increased to £739.22 a month. Miss Eagle said she had been “scrupulous” about adhering to the rules. She explained that Liverpool had always been her main home but when she became a minister in 2001 she says was “required” to designate her London home as her principal property.
The Enfield North MP claimed more than £4,500 of repairs at her constituency home before "flipping" her second home to another London property. During the 2007/8 financial year she claimed a total of £1,045 on home and garden repairs at the semi-detached home in Enfield that she shares with her husband and children. This included £220 on garden fence repairs, £460 on clearing the back garden and path down the side of the house, £150 on repairing the garage door and £45 on cleaning the windows. The following financial year Mrs Ryan, who voted for a bill which would have kept details of MPs' expenses secret, claimed a total of £3,624 under the Additional Costs Allowance for repair work, before she asked to redesignate her first and second homes. Mrs Ryan said she had not made any claims for redecoration or refurbishment on her south London flat and therefore had not “flipped” her properties to maximise the benefit of her allowances nor made any gain by selling them.
Tory backbencher Mr Knight, who has a collection of classic cars, claimed £2,600 for repair work on the driveway at his designated second home as part of a £21,793 bill for maintenance and security. His claims were for bills of £13,755 in MPs expenses over four years for work on the roof, windows and paving at his constituency house in East Yorkshire and a further £8,038 for unspecified maintenance, security, insurance and repair costs. Mr Knight was on the committee which helped formulate David Maclean’s private member’s bill in 2007 which would have exempted Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act, thereby ensuring that MPs’ expense claims would have remained secret. Mr Knight said that none of his claims was related to the cost of keeping his car collection and that household bills were high partly because of an ISDN line for radio interviews and partly because of an electric water purification system at the house, which was not served by mains water.
Shadow home office minister David Ruffley "flipped" his second home from London to his constituency before claiming back thousands for furniture and fittings, including a £1,674 sofa when he moved flats. He was also said to have been refused the full amount when he claimed for a £2,175 television from Harrods. He was also reimbursed £675.63 in costs for moving between the two flats in Bury St Edmunds. Mr Ruffley paid £800 a month in rent for his new flat in the town, which was less than the £1,136.08 in mortgage interest payments he claimed for his flat in Pimlico. This was reimbursed by taxpayers under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) system. Mr Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said that he decided to name his rented property constituency as his second home because his job meant he had to spend more time in London. He claimed this redesignation had saved the tax-payer money. He said he voted the Maclean Bill to protect private correspondence of his constituents not to stop people fining out about his expenses' claims.
The former Labour whip, who is MP for Erewash in Derbyshire, spent hundreds of pounds just before the end of the financial year to take her second home claim close to the maximum. In March, 2005, Ms Blackman bought a £199 DVD player and a £99 rug to bring her total for the end of the 2004/5 financial year to £20,893 – £9 short of the maximum ACA allowed in 2004/5. The following year she made several major purchases in the final four months of the financial year, buying a £249.99 television, a dishwasher for exactly the same amount, a £149.99 fax, a £50 iron, and spending £150 on bed linen and £60 on towels. None of the items required a receipt as they were below the £250 threshold. The purchases brought her total claims for 2005/06 to £21,632 – £2 shy of the maximum allowance for 2005/6. A similiar pattern of shopping was borne out in claims made the following year. Ms Blackman, who also voted for Mr Maclean's Bill, said: "The household items for use in my rented flat were purchased with the full approval of the House authorities. I fully support reform of the system, indeed I voted for it in the recent Parliamentary vote."
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