Under-fire Leeds MP puts 'the record straight' on expenses

FABIAN Hamilton today issued a statement over claims he overcharged on his expenses claims for mortgage repayments and used taxpayers' money to improve his family home.

The MP for Leeds North East was summoned before the Labour Chief Whip this morning to explain his expenses claims following the leaked details and subsequently issued the following statement:

"The Daily Telegraph has published allegations that I have abused the system of Parliamentary allowances. This was done in spite of me giving them a full explanation of the claims I have made and they have deliberately misrepresented me. I am pleased to make this statement to put the record straight by setting out the facts.

"Claim for mortgage capital repayments in 2004. This was a mistake I made over a period of 10 months totalling 3000 and I repaid the money as soon as the error was pointed out to me by the Fees Office. At the time my mother, living in London, was gravely ill and I was spending a great deal of time with her. My family also came to London to visit often. When I informed the Fees Office of my circumstances I was advised that my Leeds home should be considered as my second home and thus interest on the mortgage became an allowable expense. The Inland Revenue also agreed that due to the amount of time spent at my mother's house, this should be classed as my main residence whilst I was looking after her and for a period after her death. The cost of living at my mother's house was borne by me. At no point was a claim made to the tax payer when living at her address as I personally paid for any costs. I should not have claimed an additional 300 per month which was the interest on an equity release loan but it was a genuine mistake made in very distressing circumstances and one I rectified immediately when I discovered it. I repaid the overpayment in full at the time.

"Claim for repair to a ceiling in my Leeds house in 2004. A burst pipe caused the damage. As my then second home I was advised that repairs might be an allowable expense. The Fees Office refused the claim suggesting it would be viewed as a capital improvement. The records of my correspondence with them over the matter have been misinterpreted. I personally paid for the ceiling to be repaired.

"Change of second home designation to London in 2006. In 2005 my mother died. I then moved back to Leeds and my Leeds address became once more my first home. This was agreed by the Fees Office. After my mother's house was sold to wind up her estate, I purchased a dilapidated flat in Maida Vale to provide my London accommodation needs. The Fees Office advised me that I could claim to make the flat habitable. I claimed the labour costs of installing a new kitchen, the cost of a new bathroom, the installation of a boiler and for some basic furnishing. I spent a substantial amount of my own money purchasing the kitchen units, rewiring and redecorating the flat none of which I claimed from the taxpayer. I again contacted the Fees Office who approved the level of expenditure and the actual bills. Aware of some of the costs being a charge on public funds, I shopped around for best value. Before undertaking any work I had checked carefully with a senior officer at the Fees Office that claims for this expenditure were entirely proper and I was advised to undertake the repairs.

"I have made no attempt to exploit the MPs expenses system. I have used it simply to work both in Leeds and London to be of service to my constituents. I have spoken to the Labour Chief Whip, Nick Brown MP who has expressed full confidence in how I have dealt with this process. I agreed with him that I will stand by the outcome of the Prime Minister's suggestion that all Labour MPs past expenses over the last four years will be scrutinised. If it is subsequently decided that any of the expenses I have claimed were inappropriate or against the rules, I have confirmed to the Chief Whip that I will repay them without hesitation."