Former MP ordered to pay back cash

FORMER Yarmouth MP Tony Wright has pledged to abide by the decision of a sleaze watchdog he must pay back thousands of pounds to the taxpayer.

The Labour politician was ordered to pay back a fifth of a �14,500 lump sum he received in return for giving up cheap rent on his taxpayer-funded second home.

And the former MP, who lost his seat to Tory Brandon Lewis in last May's general election, has also agreed to return a separate false claim for �3,050- uncovered during the investigation.

He added: 'I self-reported myself last year and said at the time I would abide by the decision of the committee and that is still the case.'

Mr Wright was one of many MPs who rented flats in Westminster's Dolphin Square, a block long popular with politicians because of its proximity to Parliament.

In 2005, the block, previously owned by a non-profit-making trust, was acquired by new owners who offered lump sum payments to tenants who were prepared to give up their entitlement to cheap rents.

Mr Wright accepted �14,500 but the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon concluded that in keeping it he had 'put his own interest before the public interest,' which constituted a breach of the MPs Code of Conduct.

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However, Mr Wright said he sought advice from the Commons authorities before keeping the cash.

The report said: 'He had received allowances which had covered almost all of the costs of his tenancy and so the correct course of action when offered a cash payment in return for tenancy rights, and which would result in a higher rent, was not to keep the money for himself.'

The committee said there were mitigating factors, particularly the fact the rent increase was not borne by the taxpayer and switching to hotels resulted in much lower claims.

It recommended that he repay and apologise to the House through a letter to the committee.

Mr Wright also committed a 'serious'' error in submitting a fifth quarterly claim for �3,050 in the same year although it was inadvertent, the committee said.

He was also criticised for taking six months to reply to the Commissioner's initial inquiries - something he blamed on having 'different priorities'' after losing his seat.