Saturday, June 20, 2009

MPs 'over-claimed' on council tax!

Houses of Parliament
Several MPs are said to have claimed too much for their council tax

More than 50 MPs have claimed expenses for council tax they have not paid, the Daily Telegraph says.

They are said to have claimed more than the rates of tax published by councils.

The new expense allegations came after police launched a criminal inquiry into an alleged misuse of expenses by a small number of MPs and peers.

Police say its economic and specialist crime command will investigate, following a public outcry about the way some MPs used their allowances.

The BBC understands that former Labour minister Elliot Morley is one of the MPs under scrutiny by police, as is another Labour MP, David Chaytor.

Both allegedly claimed interest on mortgages they had already paid off.

A Labour peer, Baroness Uddin, may also face questions about her use of a flat in Maidstone.

In new revelations by the Telegraph - which has obtained expense claims made by all MPs - it is alleged that politicians claimed for council tax on second homes in excess of town halls' published rates by house band.

The paper also said 18 of the 50 politicians accused over their council tax claims had already made re-payments to the Commons Fees Office.

The Telegraph says Labour MP Eric Illsley was accused of over-claiming by more than £6,000 between 2004 and 2008. Mr Illsley apparently refused to comment about the allegation.

Former minister Beverley Hughes was said to have profited by up to £2,000.

She told the paper she was checking her records, but did not believe the amount was as much as that.

Former home secretary David Blunkett told the Telegraph he may have over-claimed by £178, while government whip Mark Tami allegedly profited by about £1,500.

Mr Tami said: "I am going to look into whether I have over-claimed and if I have then clearly I will pay back any over-claim."

Tory MPs David Willetts and Jeremy Hunt admitted to having over-claimed for council tax by about £500 each, the Telegraph said.

Mr Willetts said it was possible that he had "inadvertently" claimed for an 11th month while his council tax bills were divided into 10 payments.

"If I have inadvertently made incorrect claims I will of course pay any money back," he said.

In a separate development announced on Friday, Scotland Yard confirmed it would investigate claims made by some MPs and peers.

Among those being investigated were Labour MP David Chaytor, who said his solicitor had been contacted by the police, and that he wanted to clear his name.

Former farming minister Elliot Morley said he expected to be cleared of any deliberate wrongdoing.

The BBC has so far been unable to speak to two other Labour MPs and the Labour peer thought to be among those under investigation.

Both Mr Chaytor and Mr Morley have already announced they will stand down as MPs after it emerged they claimed interest payments for mortgages they had paid off.

Labour MP David Chaytor says he is happy to talk to police and wants to clear his name

Labour peer Baroness Uddin, who apparently claimed an empty Maidstone flat was her main home so she could claim expenses for peers living outside London, may also face questions, the BBC understands.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has been holding a series of talks with Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer over the allegations.

Officers are thought to believe there is only a realistic chance of prosecution in cases where it can be proved individuals misled Parliament's Fees Office.

The investigation will be overseen by the Metropolitan Police's temporary assistant commissioner Janet Williams, a former special branch commander.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said in an interview with BBC World that it was "inevitable" that the police would become involved.

"If there is wrongdoing it needs to be investigated. That's how we do things in Britain," he added.




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