Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Former Labour chairman paid back £15,000 in expenses for second home

A senior Labour MP has revealed that he has paid back around £15,000 in expenses he claimed to kit out his second home.

Ian McCartney, a former party chairman, said that he had decided to hand back the money to “ensure public confidence” in the expenses system. He returned the money last year after rules were tightened. His original claim for household items was docked by £1,400 by officials.

But he was then advised he needed to repay the full claim because Commons rules had limited the amount of the second home allowance that could be used to buy furnishings.

“If they are not appropriate now, they were not appropriate then. That was important to me,” he said last night. “I am truly appalled that my hard-earned reputation could be undermined and traduced by misrepresentations, misunderstandings or, as I genuinely accept, real concerns and revulsion about the failings of the system of MPs' expenses.”

He is the latest MP to be drawn into the scandal, now into its eleventh day. A group of MPs who had attempted to block the publication of expenses have also been accused of claiming thousands of pounds under the system.

David Maclean, a former Tory chief whip, who introduced a bill to parliament aimed at exempting MPs from key sections of the Freedom of Information Act, was accused of spending £20,000 from taxpayers on improving his property before selling it. He then avoided capital gains tax by listing the property as his main home.

Mr Maclean fiercely rejected any allegation that he had attempted to dodge tax rules by changing the address of his main home. “That is an absolute fabrication,” he said. “I did not avoid paying capital gains tax. That is crooked and I would not do it.”

He added that he had switched the address to comply with orders from the Commons.

Another Tory MP, Julian Lewis, conceded that the expenses system was “rotten” after he was found to have claimed more than £7,000 to redecorate his second home and buying new kitchenware. However, he denied any wrongdoing and said he had always operated within the rules.

The former Labour whip, Fraser Kemp, another backer of the bill, agreed to pay back some of the money he had claimed on expenses, which included the purchase of 16 sheets within seven weeks and a second DVD player.

Gordon Brown is under intense pressure to come up with tough measures to punish Labour MPs found guilty of expenses abuses. The party's National Executive Committee will be meeting tomorrow to discuss a plan to deselect any MP who is ruled to have broken expenses rules.

It comes as polls suggest that Labour has been hit hardest by the crisis in the polls as the governing party. One poll put it neck and neck with UKIP for the forthcoming European elections on 4 June.

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