Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Something for Nothing

The Telegraph uncovered another bizarre twist the other day - to the seemingly never-ending story of Westminster MPs and their parliamentary expenses.

Now no one wants working people (including MPs) to be out of pocket for doing their jobs - but no one wants them to be making unjustifiable profits - or exploiting the system - either.

Because that would be the behaviour of a 'predator' not a 'producer' - as Labour leader Ed Miliband might say - clear evidence of a 'something for nothing culture' operating amongst the country's MPs.

Yet here we have one Labour MP who made a profit of almost £500,000 after selling his taxpayer-funded flat in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal - renting a property from a second Labour MP with responsibility for highlighting government sleaze.

So why does the Labour leader have nothing to say on the matter? - which affects all party's for sure - yet Labour is the one that keeps banging on about its moral compass.

In which case you would expect Labour to show some leadership and demand that all MPs in this position - return the huge protfits they have made from the public purse..

Expenses scandal: Kevin Barron claimed £1,500 a month to rent from colleague

"The Labour MP who oversees ethical standards in the Commons has used taxpayer funds to rent a family home from a shadow Cabinet minister.

Kevin Barron, the chairman of the standards and privileges committee, claimed £1,500 a month to rent a home belonging to Jon Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister responsible for highlighting government sleaze.

Mr Barron, whose committee sits in judgment of MPs accused of ethically questionable behaviour, began renting Mr Trickett’s home after selling his taxpayer-funded flat for a profit of almost £500,000 after the expenses scandal.

Mr Trickett who previously served as Gordon Brown’s parliamentary aide, put his property on the market for just under £600,000 earlier this month, days after being warned that the expenses regulator was preparing to publish details that would disclose the arrangement.

The revelation is embarrassing for Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who yesterday indicated his disquiet at the use of taxpayer funds by MPs to rent homes from one another. He is understood to believe that the rules overseen by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority should be revised.

Since the summer, MPs have been banned from claiming mortgage interest to stop them amassing property nest-eggs at taxpayers’ expense. However, some MPs are understood to be renting their properties to one another, an apparent loophole that allows them to continue claiming rental allowance while letting their properties to colleagues.

Yesterday Sir Christopher Kelly, the chairman of the committee on standards in public life, said: “MPs should not obtain personal financial advantage from the system. If it is established that is what has been happening here, it is clearly against the spirit of the new arrangements even if it is not technically against the rules.”

Ipsa has announced that it will review the rules about renting. At least four MPs are renting to four other MPs. Linda Riordan, the Labour MP, is renting out her £400,000 flat to Iain McKenzie, a fellow Labour MP.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Mr Barron has been renting Mr Trickett’s three-bedroom family home in Barnes, south-west London. Mr Trickett, the MP for Hemsworth, West Yorkshire, bought the house for £600,000 in 2007.

Mr Barron, who represents Rother Valley, is claiming the cost of utility bills from the taxpayer. Last year Mr Barron, who as a committee chairman receives an extra £14,582 annually in addition to his MP’s salary, claimed £19,720 in costs under the second home allowance.

Mr Trickett has claimed £1,950 a month in rental allowance since July 2011, when Mr Barron began renting his home. Mr Trickett claimed mortgage costs of £2,200 in 2008/09 and £7,500 in 2009/10, but received £15,600 in the last financial year after moving into a rented property.

He said that the rent on the Barnes house was set below the commercial value of the property.

“The Barnes house failed to sell after eight months. Having spoken to local estate agents I decided to let the property for a short-term lease, which terminated in September 2012. The property is now on the market,” Mr Trickett added.

Last night Mr Barron said: “The rental agreement I had with Jon Trickett has now terminated. Whilst it is within the rules, in retrospect it would have been better not to have rented off a colleague.”