Joseph Watts, Political editor
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
A Norfolk MP has said he is “happy” for details of his London rental home to be published by the parliamentary expenses watchdog because there is nothing untoward about them.
Earlier this week the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), set up in the wake of the expenses scandal, published a list of who MPs rented their second homes from.
It showed that Broadland MP Keith Simpson rented his flat from Howard Flight, a former MP who is now in the House of Lords.
Mr Simpson said: “From my perspective it has been completely transparent, and I’m quite happy to have this information in the public domain.”
Meanwhile, details of who Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and South East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice rented from were ‘redacted’, blocked from being released, for security reasons.
Members of Parliament whose constituencies are outside London are given state funding to pay for a second home, allowing them to do their job both in the capital and in their constituency.
Under rule changes IPSA introduced, MPs were stopped from claiming for mortgage interest, and only permitted to rent a property using their parliamentary allowance.
But concerns were raised recently when it appeared some MPs might be renting from other MPs, who were then in turn claiming money for a property in the capital too.
The list of MPs’ landlords put out by IPSA showed two Labour MPs were renting to other MPs; Mr Simpson pointed out that his situation was different.
He said: “I’ve always rented a flat; I initially rented elsewhere, but decided it was too big for my requirements and decided I wanted to go closer to Parliament.
“So I started to look for a flat a short walking distance away, and someone told me Howard Flight, who already owns and lives in a house in London, also owned a single room flat that was available.
“It was ideal, so I put it up to the parliamentary authorities and they looked at the contract and it was passed. Howard Flight had already stood down [from Parliament] in 2005 and wasn’t an MP, and he wasn’t a peer until 2010.”
Mr Simpson explained that when IPSA was established it called in all rental contracts for MPs’ flats and that his had again been passed without any problems.
He added: “If [Mr Flight] wasn’t renting it to me he would rent it to someone else; from my point of view if I didn’t live there I would still have to live in a flat elsewhere in London, so it wouldn’t make any difference to the taxpayer.”
Meanwhile Ms Smith explained that she did not rent from another MP. She said: “I rent a flat in London from a commercial landlord.
“It so happens that the name of the landlord identifies the street address of the property and I do not think it’s right to run the risk of potentially being identified as living at that address.
“I entered Parliament in a by-election closely linked to the expenses scandal and have always been absolutely above board in the expenses I have claimed since coming in to the job.”
Explaining why the name of his landlord was redacted, Mr Paice said: “My landlords are a private couple who only own one property in London and therefore it would be very easy for my address to be discovered [if the landlord was identified].
“To the very best of my knowledge they have no relationship with Parliament.”