Five ministers are among a group of MPs who claimed more than £1 million from the taxpayer to cover their rent – while simultaneously letting properties they own in London.
As many as 17 landlord MPs – 15 Conservatives and two Labour – have put their housing costs on expenses, while earning more than £10,000 a year renting out their own properties.
It comes after Sir Geoffrey Cox, the former attorney general, sparked outrage after it emerged that he was claiming £1,900 for his taxpayer-funded flat in Battersea while claiming a rental income from another London home on expenses.
As an MP with a constituency outside London, he is entitled to claim accommodation costs for staying in the capital.
Until 2017 he was claiming between £8,000 and £9,000 a year in “associated costs”, such as utility bills and service charges on a property he owned. But from 2018 his claims rose to £22,000 a year after he moved into a rented property.
At the same time, his declaration in the Register of Members’ Interests showed that from November 2017 he was collecting more than £10,000 a year renting out a residential property in London.
An investigation by The Independent reveals five current ministers have claimed or rent while letting out homes in the capital – including international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, defence secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, prisons minister Victoria Atkins and junior Treasury minister John Glen.
The arrangement is permitted under Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) rules and many of those who claim are also critical of the system, claiming it ultimately costs taxpayers more, but that they are pushed into the arrangement as MPs are not allowed to claim mortgage interest payments as expenses.
But senior Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said it is “plain wrong” for colleagues to be earning money as landlords of properties they own in London, while also taking taxpayers’ cash to pay their own rent.
Trevelyan – the trade secretary – claimed £106,000 in expenses for her own rental payments since April 2016, and also claims a rental income on a Lodon flat she registered after entering parliament in 2015.
Cleverly has claimed more than £71,000 for his own rental payments since April 2016 – and also charges the taxpayer £1,200 for the flat he lives in, while receiving an income from a jointly-owned residential property in London.
Other Tory MPs claiming rental costs while letting out London properties include Dr Liam Fox, the former trade minister, ex-media minister John Whittingdale, Damian Collins, Philip Davies, Robert Goodwill, Laurence Robertson, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Anne Marie Morris and Greg Knight.
Meanwhile Labour MP Geraint Davies has claimed over £67,000 in taxpayer cash to rent a home between November 2017 and April 2021 – while collecting rent from a property in London. Fellow Labour backbencher Clive Betts has also claimed a significant amount of money.
‘Against the spirit’
North Thanet MP Sir Roger was asked about the set-up on Times Radio.
He said: “Well, I think the situation that you’ve described if it is correct, is plain wrong. It’s wholly maybe within the regulations, but it’s wholly against the spirit of what is happening.
“The intention was not that you should rent one place and hire let out another. The intention was that you have to have – and you do have to have – a second base. If you’re a Member of Parliament, there’s no doubt about that. You’ve got to go and sleep somewhere.
“We don’t sit late at night as we used to, that’s certainly true. But nevertheless, most members of Parliament from most parts of the country can’t get home at night. So you have to have somewhere to stay.
“I rent a room at a friend’s flat for about a quarter of the allowance that I’m allowed to spend because it’s congenial. And it’s value for money, as far as I’m concerned it’s value for taxpayers’ money because it is taxpayers’ money. And we need to remember that.”
An Ipsa document in 2017 acknowledged that such arrangements could be controversial but advised against any change to the rules.
“We recognise that there can be a perception of personal gain if an MP receives rental income from their own property while living in an Ipsa-funded flat,” it said.
“However, our view has not changed that an MP’s personal financial situation is not a relevant ‘test’ for whether they should receive support from Ipsa.
“We do not want to judge an MP’s private arrangements and whether or not they should live in a property they own.
“Our concern is to ensure that MPs have the appropriate support they need to carry out their parliamentary roles, including suitable accommodation in two locations.”