A former High Court judge today dismissed an appeal by shadow defence secretary Liam Fox against a finding that he was overpaid more than £22,000 in parliamentary expenses for mortgage interest on his second home.
Dr Fox was one of five MPs whose appeals were rejected by Sir Paul Kennedy - also including Communities Minister Shahid Malik, who was overpaid by £1,340 in expenses for council tax and a TV at his second home.
In a report published today, Sir Paul upheld appeals from nine MPs in whole or in part, reducing the total demanded by Sir Thomas Legg's audit of Westminster expenses for the past five years by a further £24,351.93.
Today's report relates to a handful of MPs and former MPs whose appeals could not be dealt with by the time of the publication of the Legg Report last month.
It represents the final rulings on MPs' expenses in a process triggered by the release of details of their claims early last year, and means that around £1.1 million is to be repaid.
The House of Commons authorities have now set a deadline of July 31 for all the money owed by sitting MPs to be handed back or for formal arrangements for repayment to be made.
Commons authorities are also in discussion with a "small number" of former MPs who have not yet repaid the sums demanded by Legg.
Dr Fox challenged the Legg Report's finding that he was overpaid by £22,476.03 after increasing the mortgage on his London flat from £120,000 to £300,000, using most of the capital to pay for a family home in his Woodspring constituency and to refurbish his second home.
Sir Paul found that the money claimed by Dr Fox was "not recoverable under the rules then in force", which said allowances could not be claimed on additional mortgages secured on the same property.
In Mr Malik's case, Sir Paul found that Sir Thomas was right to recommend repayments totalling £1,340 - of which the Dewsbury MP had already returned £1,304.
Some of the cash related to claims for a £1,050 TV and a £730 armchair for his second home, which were each deemed to exceed guideline maximum prices of £825 and £550 respectively. Mr Malik was also asked to repay £935 in overpaid council tax and summons costs.
Sir Paul said he recognised Mr Malik's "frustration (and) irritation" at having been permitted to claim for the items of furniture, only to be told now that they were too expensive.
But he said: "What matters is not what the item is or was worth, but what the reviewer considers that it would be reasonable for the public to pay towards an item of that kind."
Sir Paul also rejected Mr Malik's argument that the excessive council tax claim was part of a planned procedure to offset an under-claim on his mortgage interest.
The judge found: "As it seems to me, the position is quite simple... you claimed for more council tax than you had paid, as the documents show. Nothing in the rules entitled you to inflate your claim for council tax to make up for any shortfall in your claim for mortgage interest."
Labour MP Betty Williams (Conwy) had her appeal against part of the Legg Report's recommendation for the repayment of £750 in mortgage interest dismissed.
Kennedy also rejected an appeal from former Labour MP Roger Casale (Wimbledon) against demands for repayment of £5,964 for rent and furniture.
And an appeal from former MP Chris Pond (Labour, Gravesham) against Sir Thomas's finding that he was overpaid £1,650 in mortgage interest was rejected because he has already given the money back, so there was no demand for repayment.Reuse content