Four ministers in Boris Johnson’s government are among a group of MPs who have claimed more than £1m from the taxpayer to cover their rent payments, while letting properties that they own in London.
Former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox sparked outrage after it emerged that he was claiming £1,900 a month for his taxpayer-funded flat while claiming a rental income from a home elsewhere in London.
An investigation by The Independent shows four current ministers have also claimed for rent while letting out homes in the capital, including international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, defence secretary Ben Wallace, prisons minister Victoria Atkins and junior Treasury minister John Glen.
It comes as Mr Johnson’s government faces growing pressure over a deluge of “sleaze” claims after last week’s botched attempt to rip up the disciplinary process and save ex-Tory MP Owen Paterson from suspension.
Tory grandee Malcolm Rifkind issued a warning to the prime minister that he is in danger of becoming “a liability” to his party and of being toppled by his own MPs if he fails to act on growing concerns about conduct rules and second jobs.
Sir Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the latest findings on second homes by The Independent were “shocking”. He called for an end to the “loophole” which allowed property-owning MPs to put their own rent on expenses and stay within the rules.
The standards veteran said: “It may be within the rules, but it’s quite wrong for MPs to use the public purse in this way. MPs have a duty to claim only public funds that are necessary.”
Sir Alistair added: “If there’s an opportunity to end the loophole allowing them to do this, then we must take it. There is growing feeling that the rules must change.”
Over the past five years, 16 MPs have claimed over £1.3m in taxpayer-funded rent while collecting thousands rent letting out properties in the capital, according to submissions published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and the register of members’ interests.
Ms Trevelyan, the trade secretary, has claimed £106,000 in expenses for her own rental payments since April 2016. She also claims a rental income on a London flat she registered after she entered parliament in 2015.
Mr Wallace, the defence secretary, claimed more than £110,000 in taxpayer-funded rent between April 2016 and July 2020 – a period in which he was also collecting rent on a property in London.
It is understood that junior Home Office minister Ms Atkins’ claim for more than £43,000 in rent since April 2018 relates to her constituency home in Lincolnshire. Since April 2018 she has also been collecting rent on a house in London.
Other Tory MPs to have claimed for rental costs while letting residential property in London include former trade minister Dr Liam Fox, former media minister John Whittingdale, Philip Davies, Robert Goodwill, Laurence Robertson, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Anne Marie Morris and Greg Knight.
Conservative backbencher Damian Collins has the single largest rent expenses submission, claiming just over £148,000 from the taxpayer over the past five years, all while taking in a rental income from property in London.
Labour MP Geraint Davies has claimed just over £67,000 in taxpayer funding to rent a home between November 2017 and April 2021 – a period during which he also collecting rent payments letting out residential a property he owns in the capital.
Clive Betts, a fellow Labour backbencher, claimed just over £44,000 for rent between April 2016 and June 2018, the same period he also claimed rental income on a London home.
MPs have not been eligible to claim expenses for mortgage payments on their second homes in London since 2010 under changes brought in following the previous year’s expenses scandal.
But claims for rent are permitted under Ipsa rules, which state that MPs can receive taxpayer funding for “rental payments and associated costs”. An Ipsa document in 2017 conceded that some arrangements could be controversial – but advised against any change to the rules.
“We recognise that there can be a perception of personal gain if an MP receives rental income from their own property while living in an Ipsa-funded flat,” it said. “However … We do not want to judge an MP’s private arrangements and whether or not they should live in a property they own.”
Sir Geoffrey has been under fire following the disclosure that he stands to make more than £1m from outside legal work, including representing the British Virgin Islands in a corruption inquiry.
He is currently claiming £22,000 a year in taxpayer funding to rent a London home while collecting rent on another property he co-owns in the capital. A spokeswoman for the MP said: “Sir Geoffrey has acted at all times within the rules set by the IPSA.”
The Independent has contacted all MPs named in this article for comment.
The article was amended on 12 November 2021 to remove references to James Cleverly MP. Mr Cleverly told The Independent he does not derive any rental income from property in London. He said there was an error in the register of members’ interests. He claims expenses for rent on a property in his Braintree constituency.
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