Millionaire Secretary of State Shaun Woodward claimed £100,000 in mortgage interest on one of his flats it has been revealed as the row over MPs’ allowances was spectacularly reignited today.
The controversial issue re-emerged after a national newspaper printed details of receipts submitted by 13 members of the Cabinet whose claims ran into thousands of pounds.
The receipts, printed in the Daily Telegraph, showed Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid his own brother for cleaning services and Justice Secretary Jack Straw refunded around £1,500 in overpayments for council tax, as well as mortgage bills.
According to the newspaper, Mr Woodward — who with his wife Camilla, a member of the
Sainsbury’s grocery family, is worth an estimated £15m — was paid the maximum second homes allowance of £23,083 in 2007 to 2008, the most recent year for which full records are available.
He spent the money on mortgage interest and council tax payments on a Thames-side flat in
London where he stays when Parliament is sitting.
His expenses receipts, submitted quarterly with a covering letter from his accountants, show that between January 2004 and June 2008, Mr Woodward claimed £98,079.63 in mortgage interest payments, £1,806.69 towards utility bills, £3,814.98 towards his council tax and £409.16 in phone bills.
Campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance said the “dubious” claims showed the need for “urgent and wholesale reform” of the expenses system.
But the ministers involved denied wrongdoing, while Labour’s Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman said the Government had already moved to ensure that the system is tightened up.
A spokesman for Mr Woodward said: “Mr Woodward’s allowance claims are published every year and they are within the rules and guidelines.”
Meanwhile, Harriet Harman today defended her Cabinet colleagues after receipts were disclosed detailing thousands of pounds of expenses.
“The old system was the system those claims were made under," she said. “We’ve recognised that, though they might have been claims made in good faith, that’s not acceptable for the future and we are changing the system.
“We want to be sure of two things — firstly that MPs are able to do their job in their constituencies and in Westminster, and secondly that public money is not misused and the public have confidence in the allowance system.”
Ms Harman told GMTV: “I know people will be very angry and concerned about this, but I do want to reassure people that we have recognised there’s a problem and we’ve already taken action on this.”
But she denied the accusations amounted to ‘fiddling’ expenses.