Region’s MPs in flats expenses row

Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax
Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax
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SIX Yorkshire MPs are at the centre of a new expenses row as it emerged they are among 27 politicians letting out London homes while claiming public money to rent elsewhere in the city.

Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan is one of four politicians revealed to be exploiting a loophole that allows them to let out properties to colleagues.

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Shadow Ministers Andy Burnham, Jim Murphy and Chris Bryant, and Communities Minister Don Foster are among those listed as raking in income from properties while receiving up to £20,000 a year in expenses.

Although the practice does not break any rules, it will fuel concerns that politicians profit from Commons allowances.

They also include Labour MPs Clive Betts, for Sheffield South East and Jon Trickett, for Hemsworth, and Conservatives Robert Goodwill, for Scarborough and Whitby, and Philip Davies, for Shipley, whose rental incomes are all declared on the Parliamentary register of members’ interests.

Sheffield Heeley Labour MP Meg Munn is also alleged to done so but stopped receiving rental income on her London flat in April.

Mrs Riordan is letting her own flat in the capital to fellow Labour MP Iain McKenzie, for £1,560 a month while claiming £1,473 a month – equal to £17,676 a year – to rent another flat for herself.

Her mortgage on the property rented out to Mr McKenzie is reportedly just over £500 a month, meaning she is making up to £1,000 a month on the deal.

She bought the flat in 2006, shortly after she became an MP, for £300,000. She then claimed £35,000 from the taxpayer for its mortgage costs from 2007 to 2010.

She also has a home in the village of Northowram in her constituency, which she has owned outright for more than 20 years.

Mr McKenzie, who does not profit from the arrangement, insisted he rented the flat through an agent and did not know it belonged to Mrs Riordan until after he moved in.

“If I had known beforehand that the flat was owned by an MP then I probably wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “You’ve got to apply the test of how it looks to the man in the street, regardless of whether it’s above board or not.”

MPs were banned from claiming for mortgages by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) and are now only permitted to receive expenses for renting in rules that came into force last month.

The move was intended to head off criticism after the expenses scandal three years ago, but appears to have created an incentive for many to vacate homes they own.

Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: “The principles here are clear – MPs should be properly reimbursed for costs they incur but not obtain personal financial advantage from the system,” he said.

“If it is established that is what has been happening here, it is clearly against the spirit of the new arrangements even if it is not technically against the rules.”

Ms Riordan said that she had kept within the rules, but added: “I now recognise what the perception of this arrangement will look like to my constituents and the wider general public. I understand IPSA is consulting on this and other issues and it is right they look at it. For my part, when the tenancy concludes I will cease this arrangement.”

Meg Munn said she could not afford to live in her London flat and so rented it out. “When in London I now live in a rented flat. I would have preferred to continue to live in the flat I owned, but IPSA’s rules do not allow this.”

Philip Davies said he too had no option but to rent out his London flat and he was “making a loss”.