Sir Geoffrey Cox earns a heap of extra income by renting out a taxpayer-funded London house – all while claiming £1,900 a month for a second home in the capital.
The former attorney general – already accused of using his Commons office to carry out a lucrative second job – claimed £3,800 on his second home while he was working in the Caribbean, carrying out legal work for a tax haven accused of corruption.
But, despite an ex-standards chief saying it is “totally wrong” for MPs to claim housing expenses while working overseas, Cox has broken no Commons rules, the Mirror reported.
It emerged this week that Cox has been referred to the Commons anti-sleaze watchdog after using his parliamentary office to defend the British Virgin Islands in a corruption case brought by the UK government.
Sir Geoffrey – the highest-earning MP – spent April, May and June in the Caribbean this year defending British Virgin Islands ministers, using pandemic-era exemptions to vote in the Commons by proxy.
Amid outrage at the barrister’s arrangements, video of a hearing in September has emerged participating remotely from what appears to be his Commons office, The Times revealed. Cox has failed to deny doing legal work from that office.
Labour leapt on the latest allegations, accusing Cox of “brazenly” breaking rules requiring MPs to use their taxpayer-funded offices for parliamentary work only.
But the QC, in a statement issued on his website on Wednesday, defended his decision to work with the islands – offering legal advice that could earn him more than £1 million this year on top of his £81,900 MP salary – and said he would co-operate with any investigation into his conduct.
On top of that, the Torridge and West Devon MP rakes in around £1,000 a week for the home he lets out in Battersea, South London. He bought the property with his wife as a second home for £535,000 in 2004 – claiming £82,298 mortgage interest payments in four years.
Despite a tightening of rules after the expenses scandal, Sir Geoffrey continued to use the Battersea flat – but claimed only £9,000 a year for utility bills and service charges.
‘Investigate this scandal’
However, according to the Mirror, he moved into another property in 2017 – and started charging taxpayers £1,900 a month for it.
Sir Alistair Graham, a former Standards Committee chairman, said the dodgy arrangements are “a kind of flipping”. He said: “If they have got a flat in London they should be happy enough to use that rather than go through this device to gain somewhere else and build up extra income.”
He added: “If MPs are out of the country and in the case of Cox earning vast sums of money then to be at the same time claiming money from the public purse to safeguard their flat is totally wrong.”
Labour has dismissed Sir Geoffrey’s defence of his alleged actions. Angela Rayner, the deputy leader, said on Twitter: “Geoffrey Cox says he didn’t break the rules by using his taxpayer-funded office in Parliament to do his job as a barrister working for a tax haven being investigated for corruption.
“The rules could not be clearer. That is why the commissioner must now investigate this scandal.”