Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

My expenses are 'a million per cent by the book', says MP

Defiant Justice Minister Shahid Malik insisted today that he went "one million per cent by the book" in making expenses claims ranging from a massage chair to a home cinema system.

He pointedly refused to return any of the money to the Parliamentary authorities, but said he would donate £1,050 he claimed for his television to worthy causes in his constituency.

Mr Malik claimed £66,827 over three years for his second home in Peckham, south east London, the highest figure for any MP, the Daily Telegraph reported.

At the same time he was renting a house in his constituency of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, for less than £100 a week, according to the paper.

He is also alleged to have claimed £65 for a court summons for the non-payment of council tax.

The minister insisted he had acted within the rules and declined to discuss the Daily Telegraph's claim that he was paying below market rates for his constituency home.

He said: "I spend half the week in Dewsbury and half the week in London and claim on my second home in London. I have not broken any rules."

Mr Malik put in a £2,600 claim for the home cinema system, but Parliament's Fees Office said he had exceeded the limit and paid him back only £1,050.

He pledged to put this money to good use in Dewsbury, telling Sky News: "I will not be giving it to the authorities in Parliament because it is legitimately mine.

"But as a gesture I am giving that to good causes in my constituency, and I think it will be appreciated by those who receive it."

Mr Malik batted off questions about why he needed to spend £730 on a massage chair, saying it was a "legitimate expenditure" that he was allowed to make.

He said he went "one million per cent by the book" in designating the house he rents in Dewsbury as his main home and insisted he was "not in it for the money".

But he added: "The one thing I am clear about is that the rules are in complete tatters.

"I was a new MP. Everything I did, I asked before I did it because I didn't want to be doing anything that was against the rules."

Mr Malik admitted that the stories about MPs' expenses have had a negative impact on democracy and politics.

"With hindsight, I think every MP in this country would have done things differently," he said.

"And for that collectively, on behalf of all MPs, of course I apologise."

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