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UK Politics

Tory MP to repay £1,500 expenses

A Conservative MP has been made to repay £1,500 after an official inquiry which found that he had wrongly claimed more than £50,000 of taxpayers' money to rent a flat his company owned.

Brian Binley, the MP for Northampton South continued to rent a flat owned by his company for three years after such an arrangement was banned in April 2006, but he was judged not to have made a personal financial benefit.

Mr Binley was also ordered to apologise in writing after the Committee on Standards and Privileges found he breached parliamentary rules.

The committee found that the Northampton South MP rented the flat from BCC Marketing Services Ltd, a company in which he, his wife and his son all owned a 20% stake each.

The full rental cost of £1,500 a month was claimed against his Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) and in total this amounted to £58,500 over three years, the Committee found.

The committee found that Mr Binley breached expenses rules which prohibit claiming the costs of leasing accommodation from a company in which an MP or an MP's family member have an interest.

This had been done in a "sustained and deliberate" way, it said.

Mr Binley rented the flat in Pimlico, central London, between February 2006 and April last year, during which time he renewed the lease annually and claimed the rent.

He is the company's non-executive chairman, from which he receives an annual salary of £8,000, and his son is the firm's managing director.

The committee said: "Mr Binley breached the rules of the House relating to claims against the Additional Costs Allowance and this was a serious matter - particularly so for the period from April 2007, when the deadline for bringing his second home arrangements within the revised rules had expired.

"The breach was sustained and it was deliberate, in that Mr Binley appears to have renewed his lease for a full 12 months.

"We regard this, together with Mr Binley's failure either to comply with the Department of Finance and Administration's determination of June 2006 or to pursue expeditiously his appeal against that determination, as a serious failure of his duty under the code of conduct to ensure at all times that his use of allowances provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules."

In its recommendation the committee stressed that Mr Binley "neither sought nor gained any personal financial advantage from his rental arrangement" which "cost no more and probably less" than alternative options.

This had been a mitigating factor, along with the fact that the DFA failed to enforce its letter informing him that the rules relating to the ACA were going to be changed in July 2006.

The DFA told Mr Binley he could continue claiming the rent on the property on his expenses until the end of the 2006-07 financial year.

The committee's report went on: "We conclude that the House authorities' failure to act on the deadline they had themselves set for Mr Binley to bring his second home arrangements within the revised rules was equally serious and that it allowed a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs to continue for far too long.

"This failure does not absolve Mr Binley of his responsibilities, but it is something that causes us great concern.

"As for Mr Binley's failure to register the benefit he received by virtue of his company's taking on of a range of costs associated with his use of the Pimlico property, we regard this breach as having been rectified.

"As the commissioner has noted, the benefit was, in effect, transferred to Parliament, because Mr Binley would have been entitled to claim for these costs had he paid them himself. The public purse did not lose out."