MPs Claiming London Accommodation Expenses Despite Owning a House in the Capital
46 MPs have found themselves the subject of a disapproving public gaze following revelations that they claim expenses for rent and hotel accommodation in London despite being London homeowners themselves. Although technically legal, serious questions have been raised about the ethics of these actions, especially following the not-too-distant expenses scandal. The party represented most significantly among these 46 MPs is the Conservative Party with 25, but the list also includes 14 Labour and 4 Lib Dems plus an SNP MP. These expense claims have evidently cost the British taxpayers £1.3 million since 2012.
According to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) these claims are technically allowable under the rules set for MP expenses. The guidelines for MPs claiming expenses had to be changed as a result of the expenses scandal, and so MPs were no longer able to claim back mortgage payments. Interestingly many of the 46 MPs currently claiming rental and hotel expenses despite owning London property had originally purchased that property with the aforementioned taxpayer-funded assistance. MPs are permitted by current guidelines to claim up to £150 per night for hotel accommodation and up to £20,000 per year for rental costs in London. Despite the fact that the 46 MPs in question have continued to claim London accommodation expenses while owning London homes, they are not actually guilty of misconduct or wrongdoing. Even the fact that many are renting out their London properties to earn money while simultaneously claiming back London accommodation costs from taxpayer money is not against the rules. It is, however, against the spirit of these guidelines implemented to prevent MPs from taking advantage of their position at taxpayer expense.
Sir Alistair Graham is the former chairman of the Committee for Standards in Public Life, and he believes that that "It's not always just about exactly what the rules say. It is about you taking personal responsibility that public funds are used in a proper and appropriate way that your constituents would be comfortable with.” He also points out that despite the “sob stories” MPs may come out with to justify their actions this situation is likely to hurt voter confidence in the integrity of their elected officials who will see the situation as “MPs on the make.” Such “sob stories” include Sir Nick Harvey’s assertion that the new rules put in place since the expenses scandal to curb unethical expenses claims has “forced” MPs to rent out their London properties as they can no longer claim taxpayer money to repay their mortgages. This defence, that a morally-suspect financial activity was forced onto MPs when an earlier morally-suspect financial avenue was made unavailable, has been echoed by others including MP Angus MacNeil who claimed that IPSA should stand up for MPs against media pressure. Sir Nick Harvey originally purchased a flat in Lambeth back in 2002 when he was able to claim back his mortgage payments, but since the IPSA rule changes he has instead chosen to let that property out and rent a second Lambeth property for his own use, charging the taxpayer £39,772 in expenses claims (2012/13 and 2013/14). MacNeil, meanwhile, owns a Lambeth flat but since 2012 has claimed back £42,177 for staying in Westminster hotels.
Read more here: http://www.channel4.com/news/mps-expenses-46-claim-in-london-despite-owning-a-property