Sunday, 21 October 2012

MP Fox claims rules on renting out are 'absurd'

LIAM Fox has attacked Parliament's "absurd" expenses rules in the row over MPs renting out their London homes.

Dr Fox is one of the MPs revealed to be claiming expenses to rent a London home while simultaneously letting out another one that they own. However, he is not one of eight who are reported to be in a rental arrangement with another MP.

The North Somerset MP defended his actions, saying he had been unable to live in the flat he owns in the capital while he was Defence Secretary, as the position comes with a secure grace- and-favour apartment.

He said: "When I was Secretary of State I was not allowed to live in a flat for security reasons. I was moved out of it.

"The options were either to sell it or keep it rented until I was able to move back at a future date."

Dr Fox said he would sell the flat "at some point".

Under tough new rules drawn up following the expenses scandal of 2009, MPs are no longer entitled to charge taxpayers for mortgage interest on their second homes. Only rental or hotel costs are allowed.

This has meant MPs who purchased flats in London were unable to claim support for living there. Some sold the properties, while it has been revealed that 27 chose to rent out the properties – while claiming rent to live somewhere else. This is within the rules set out by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which monitors MPs' allowances. But critics have said it is "against the spirit of those rules".

Dr Fox added: "People tried to adapt to the new rules, and did what Ipsa told them.

"It's absurd that MPs end up paying their landlords' mortgage, but are not allowed to sustain their own properties."

He added: "The simple answer would be to allow MPs to claim the same amount of money for the property they were paying mortgages on.

"A lot of us said at the time it was absurd."

A row blew up after the Commons speaker, John Bercow, intervened to attempt to block the publication under the Freedom of Information Act of MPs' rental arrangements. Mr Bercow said this was because of security fears if MPs' addresses were made public, after members from all parties raised concerns. However, Dr Fox said he was on the electoral roll, and was "absolutely relaxed" about his address being known.

In a letter to Ipsa, Mr Bercow insisted there was a "very real danger" that MPs' residential addresses could be discovered as a result of the planned publication.

Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of Ipsa, insisted the authority "would not, under any circumstances, release the full address" of an MP.

He said all affected MPs had been contacted, asking if they had concerns about the release of their landlord's details.

MP Fox claims rules on renting out are 'absurd'

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