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MPs' expenses: They're still at it

DOZENS of MPs have pocketed thousands of pounds in extra taxpayer-funded expenses because of a loophole in House of Commons rules.

A News of the World investigation into the latest batch of MPs’ expenses, published last week, shows many MPs breached the upper limit on claims for their second homes by hundreds of pounds a month.

And documents released by the House of Commons authorities show they agreed to the excessive payments.

In May, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and the Speaker agreed to put an immediate cap of £1,250 a month on rent and mortgage claims.However, at least 30 politicians were paid as much as £1900 in the months after the ban came in.

They include Tory Assistant Chief Whip Alistair Burt, who claimed £1890 a month in June, and former Pensions Secretary James Purnell, who claimed £1950 in June.

The secret loophole, which can be revealed in full for the first time today, allowed MPs in rented accommodation to keep claiming higher amounts if they lived in rented homes.

MPs had argued that they could be sued by their landlords if they suddenly stopped paying the rent they had agreed.In contrast, MPs who had mortgage repayments that are over the £1250 cap were forced to cut their claims straight away.

However, in many cases the Fees Office agreed to pay rent above the new “cap” without asking to see proof of tenancy agreements or contracts.Stourbridge MP Lynda Waltho was one of the MPs who breached the new expenses ceiling.She was claiming £2166.67 in rent in April and May this year before the new rules came in.

And in a letter to the Department of Resources on June 1st, her husband, Steve said: “Lynda has always rented her London property and we were both extremely concerned when hearing initial reports of an ‘instant’ reduction in second home claims to £1250 a month.“

Lynda is locked into a rental agreement with her landlord.”The letter then goes in to state that the Stourbridge Labour MP, who has a majority of just 407, was initially told her rent WOULD be capped at £1,250 a month.However, she was then told by staff that she could claim a higher amount for the rest of her tenancy.

Documents on the file of Tory MP, David Mundell, who paid £1,408 a month, was told to submit a claim form for £1,250 a month, and then send a second form for the remaining £158.Both were paid out by the Commons authorities.

Some, including Tory Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries, paid rent worth £1575 a month in advance before the cap came in and therefore managed to avoid any cuts.Other over-claimers include the chairman of the committee that fought a bitter battle against MPs allowances being published and then cut.Sir Stuart Bell was allowed to claim £1450 a month.

Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne’s mortgage payments were immediately reduced from £1,794 a month to £1,250 after the new limit came in.A source in the Department of Resources at the Commons said: “We had to cut people a little bit of slack because we were being bombarded by MPs claiming they were about to be sued by their landlords.”

However, last night campaigners demanded that the proposed cap on living costs be implemented fully.

Susie Squire, Political Director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “Taxpayers will be outraged that certain MPs have been getting around the rules by renting.

“I would say a cap is a cap and it must be strictly enforced whether someone is renting or has a mortgage, otherwise it makes a mockery of any claims that the system is being reformed.”



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