Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Labour MP got £13k expenses for mortgage he already paid off

A Labour politician has become the latest figure to find himself in the firing line over the ongoing expenses row.

David Chaytor, a back bench MP, has admitted that he claimed almost £13,000 in interest payments for a mortgage which he had already repaid.

Mr Chaytor is the second MP to be named as having made illegitimate mortgage claims and could face a criminal inquiry into his expenses.

He said that he had made an “unforgivable error”, but is likely to be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The scandal, which has been prompted by coverage in the Daily Telegraph, continued to cause serious turmoil among politicians in Westminster yesterday.

Shahid Malik, the Justice Minister, was forced to step down and Scotland Yard began initial inquiries into questionable claims by several MPs.

According to the Daily Telegraph, between September 2005 and August 2006 Mr Chaytor claimed £1,175 a month for mortgage interest on a Westminster flat. However, Land Registry records show that the mortgage on the flat had already been paid off in January 2004.

Last night, Mr Chaytor apologised “unreservedly”.

“In respect of mortgage interest payments, there has been an unforgivable error in my accounting procedures for which I apologise unreservedly,” he said in a statement.

“I will act immediately to ensure repayment is made to the fees office.”

Lawyers said that his claims, which were similar to those made by Elliot Morley, the former Environment Minister, could constitute a criminal offence under the 2006 Fraud Act and the 1968 Theft Act. Since 2004 Mr Chaytor has claimed for five different properties, ‘flipping’ his designated second home between London, Yorkshire and Bury. He claimed for one home where his son was the named occupant on council tax bills.

His prompt admission of wrongdoing underlined the growing concern in Westminster that there were serious abuses of the expenses system that MPs failed to disclose to their party leaders or Parliamentary whips.

Yesterday David Cameron ordered his MPs to return to their constituencies and justify their behaviour. Today, the Telegraph has disclosed more details of “excessive” claims, with MPs switching between different properties or buying expensive items for their homes.

It has been be disclosed that:

  • Sir Gerald Kaufman, the former Labour Environment Minister, charged £1,851 for a rug he imported from a New York antiques centre and tried to claim £8,865 for a television.
  • Chris Bryant, the deputy leader of the House of Commons, ‘flipped’ his second home twice in two years, allowing him to claim almost £20,000 from expenses.
  • Anthony Steen, a long-standing Conservative MP, claimed expenses for looking after 500 trees.

Mr Chaytor was abroad last night on a taxpayer-funded trip to America with the Children, Schools and Families select committee, but he was expected to return to Britain immediately to face Labour Party officials and his constituents.

In a statement he said: “Changing and complex family circumstances have required me to live in different places during the last five years. During this time I should have ensured that my mortgage had been switched to the flat in which I was temporarily living. Stupidly and inexplicably, and at a time of great personal and family stress, I failed to ensure that this was done.”

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