Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Ex-NIO minister claimed thousands for bathroom

A former Northern Ireland Office minister claimed thousands of pounds in expenses for a new bathroom at one of her flats months before switching her designated second home to a property with a more expensive mortgage.

Maria Eagle, who was education minister for one year until devolution was restored in 2007, designated a flat in her Liverpool constituency as her second home until 2006.

In December 2005, she was paid £3,500 in expenses for refurbishing the bathroom in the flat in upmarket Mossley Hill.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Miss Eagle — now a junior minister at the Equalities Office and the Ministry of Justice — fitted a new suite, thermo shower and wall and slate floor tiles and removed a wall at a total cost of just over £7,000.

But the House of Commons indicated she could not claim the full amount because the alterations amounted to an improvement to the property.

Around April 2006, she changed her second home designation to a flat in Camberwell, London which was bought in 1999. After the change her claims for mortgage interest payments increased to £749.22 per month.

Miss Eagle was among nearly 100 MPs who voted to exclude Parliament from freedom of information legislation.

“I have been scrupulous about adhering to the rules and ensuring good stewardship of public funds. It is right that the rules are now changed given some of the revelations of recent days,” she told the Sunday Telegraph.

“Liverpool has always been my main home. I grew up on Merseyside. I therefore designated my London home as my second home.

“When I became a minister in 2001, I was required to designate my London home my main home and did so. After that rule changed I reverted to the reality, given that I spend so much of my time in Liverpool.

“It’s true I then claimed a higher mortgage but only because I was trying to follow the rules. I would not have switched second home if I had not become a minister. I have a two-bedroomed flat in Liverpool and a two-bedroom flat in London. But mortgages in London are higher,” she said.

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