March 9 2014 Latest news:
By Mark Shields
Monday, October 22, 2012
A Norfolk MP drawn into an expenses row over renting out his London home last night insisted he had nothing to hide and had tried to save the taxpayer money by claiming less than his full entitlement.
Norman Lamb, the MP for North Norfolk, was named in weekend national newspaper reports as being one of five MPs who claimed for hotel expenses during his Parliamentary work despite owning a property in the capital.
Speaking to the EDP last night, Mr Lamb explained that he had used the rental income from his Westminster flat to offset his hotel costs and other costs of Parliamentary and constituency bills, and lowering his final claim.
He began renting out his flat, which he bought following his election in 2001, after the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority ruled that MPs could no longer claim for mortgage interest on properties they owned.
“From the start I was very clear that I must not profit personally from the arrangements,” said Mr Lamb, who became minister for care services in the last government reshuffle.
“I used the profit from the rent of the flat to reduce the hotel bills and one or two other Parliamentary-related costs in the constituency.”
Mr Lamb claimed £7,388 in hotel bills in the last financial year, which he said would typically be three nights a week between Monday and Thursday. Under the guidelines, he is entitled to claim for the full cost of the hotel.
“If I’m working away from home I should be able to claim the cost of being away from home, but no more,” said Mr Lamb. “I believe it’s morally wrong to claim more than you are entitled to.
“Because I have chosen to set rental income off against hotel bills, I have been able to minimise the cost to the taxpayer of my staying in London.”
Mr Lamb could not put a precise figure on the savings but said it would amount “to thousands, not hundreds”. He added that had he continued living in his Westminster flat and claimed the service charge to which he was entitled, the cost to the taxpayer would have been “about the same”.
Figures from Ipsa show that Mr Lamb claimed £27,222.94 in the year 2011/12, which included £10,624.11 on office costs, and £4,675.37 on travel.
The total means the Liberal Democrat was the second lowest claimant of all of Norfolk’s MPs, with only North West Norfolk’s Henry Bellingham claiming less.
Conservative Brandon Lewis also found himself in the spotlight, after letting out a property in his Great Yarmouth constituency while renting another, though he said the decision not to rent in London cost the taxpayer around £8,000 a year less.
In 2011/12, Mr Lewis’s total expenses claim of £57,517.64 included £21,452.95 for accommodation.
But he told the EDP last night: “I’ve always strictly adhered to the rightly rigorous standards set out by Ipsa and moving forward I will not be claiming any accommodation expenses.”