Senior Conservative MP Roger Gale has said it is “plain wrong” for colleagues to be earning money as landlords of properties they own in London, while also taking taxpayers’ cash to pay their own rent.
The Times reported that 14 MPs were taking advantage of a loophole in the parliamentary expenses scheme which means they can let their homes to tenants, and then claim for rent paid on a London rental property to live in.
The arrangement is permitted under Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) rules and many of those who claim are also critical of the system, claiming it ultimately costs taxpayers more, but that they are pushed into the arrangement as MPs are not allowed to claim mortgage interest payments as expenses.
Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox is one of those who claims for rental income while owning a London home.
As an MP with a constituency outside London, he is entitled to claim accommodation costs for staying in the capital.
Until 2017, he was claiming between £8,000 and £9,000 a year in “associated costs”, such as utility bills and service charges on a property he owned.
But from 2018, his claims rose to £22,000 a year after he moved into a rented property.
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At the same time, his declaration in the Register of Members’ Interests showed that from November 2017 he was collecting more than £10,000 a year renting out a residential property in London.
North Thanet MP Gale was asked about the set-up on Times Radio.
Well, I think the situation that you’ve described if it is correct, is plain wrong. It’s wholly maybe within the regulations, but it’s wholly against the spirit of what is happening.
The intention was not that you should rent one place and hire let out another. The intention was that you have to have – and you do have to have – a second base. If you’re a Member of Parliament, there’s no doubt about that. You’ve got to go and sleep somewhere.
We don’t sit late at night as we used to, that’s certainly true. But nevertheless, most members of Parliament from most parts of the country can’t get home at night. So you have to have somewhere to stay.
I rent a room at a friend’s flat for about a quarter of the allowance that I’m allowed to spend because it’s congenial. And it’s value for money, as far as I’m concerned it’s value for taxpayers’ money because it is taxpayers’ money. And we need to remember that.”
An Ipsa document in 2017 acknowledged that such arrangements could be controversial but advised against any change to the rules. It said:
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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.
However, our view has not changed that an MP’s personal financial situation is not a relevant ‘test’ for whether they should receive support from Ipsa.
We do not want to judge an MP’s private arrangements and whether or not they should live in a property they own.
Our concern is to ensure that MPs have the appropriate support they need to carry out their parliamentary roles, including suitable accommodation in two locations.”
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