Openly gay minister Ben Bradshaw is the latest Labour MP to have his expenses exposed in the Daily Telegraph. He claimed for the full mortgage of a home he only half owned while the former Equality Minister, Barbara Follet claimed £25,000 for “security patrols”.
Mr Bradshaw who is both Health Minister and Minister for South West England switched the designation of his west London second home to a property he shares with his civil partner Neal Dalgleish.
Although Mr Bradshaw initially split the cost of the interest on a mortgage with his television producer civil partner, he now claims the cost of the mortgage from the House of Commons. The newspaper reports that this is despite the fact that he only owns half of the property.
The pair jointly owned the property since 1996. Between October 2006 and 31st March 2007, Mr Bradshaw claimed around £1,080 per month in mortgage interest payments under the Additional Costs Alllowance.
Rules state that “if you take out a joint mortgage with someone who is not your spouse or partner you must contact DFA [Department for Finance and Administration] to arrange to discuss the amount of any such mortgage which can be claimed from ACA.
“This will normally be based on the actual percentage of the mortgage for which you are responsible.”
Of course Mr Bradshaw does live with his spouse and his spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: “Although the mortgage is in their joint names, since their civil partnership Mr Bradshaw has paid the full bill.”
Obviously, it suits Mr Bradshaw and his partner financially for the whole cost of the interest on the mortgage to be paid by the tax payer rather than half out of Mr Dalgleish’s BBC salary which is of course taxed income, rather than untaxed expenses.
“Since his civil partnership he has claimed the full amount,” his spokesman added. “All of his claims have been approved by the Fees Office as within the parliamentary rules.
“He always claimed expenses for London rather than his constituency except between 2003 – when the rules changed temporarily to say that ministers should claim for constituency rather than London costs – and 2006”.
Mr Bradshaw joins a list of other ministers who have had their expenses disclosed today.
Controversially, the Daily Telegraph reports that the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas claimed for items of womens clothing, tampons and nappies.
Expenses are only to be claimed for items “exclusively” used by MPs. But one should not assume that Mr Woolas is a secret drag queen. He says that the items were on a receipt for a valid expense and that he did not claim any money for them. Mr Woolas is apparently threatening legal action against the newspaper, calling the report “disgusting.”
The former Equality Minister, multi-millionaire Barbara Follett, who is married to the author Ken Follett claimed more than £25,000 for security patrols after she felt unsafe following a mugging in Soho.
Mrs Follett is now the Tourism Minister. She told the BBC: “I claimed it, it’s within the rules and I have no comment to make”. She also attempted to claim £528.75 for a Chinese needlepoint rug to be repaired and cleaned. But the House of Commons rejected her claim, saying it was excessive and asked her to pay back £300. She told the Daily Telegraph: “As all [claims] bar one, have been accepted and cleared by the House of Commons Fees Office under the rules laid out in the Green Book, I have no further comment to make on them.”
“The item not accepted by the Fees Office was claimed in error and is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the only two occasions in the last 12 years when my expenses claims have been queried by them.”
Yesterday it was reported that the openly gay Business Secretary Peter Mandelson billed taxpayers £3,000 for work on his constituency home less than a week after standing down as MP for Hartlepool.
Receipts show his decorator sent him an invoice for £1,350 relating to work done at the house in Hutton Avenue on July 25th, two days after he accepted an offer from Tony Blair to become Britain’s European Commissioner.
Three days later, his gardener sent him a bill for £1,500 for work in the garden of the house, followed by a bill for £385 for work on the house’s roof and bathroom, dated September 23rd.
Under parliamentary rules, MPs may bill the taxpayer for “necessary repairs to make good dilapidations” but cannot claim for anything which will increase property values.
He renovated the Hartlepool house in 2004 before selling it for a profit of £136,000.
Lord Mandelson was forced to resign as the trade secretary in 1998 after it was revealed he borrowed £373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, the paymaster general, to buy a house in Notting Hill without declaring the loan to his building society or the government.
In a statement, he said: “The work done was necessary maintenance. All claims made were reasonable and submitted consistent with parliamentary rules.”
The receipts obtained by the newspaper have put 13 ministers in the spotlight over their expenses claims.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was found that have paid his brother Andrew more than £6,500 for the use of a cleaner at his private flat in Westminster as well as claiming twice for a plumbing bill.
Communities secretary Hazel Blears claimed for three different properties in a single year, while former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had his toilet seat repaired twice in two years at the taxpayer’s expense.
Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward, who defected from the Conservative party after being sacked from the front bench for his support of repealing Section 28, claimed almost £100,000 to help pay mortgage interest repayments on a £1.3 million flat in London.
It was one of 13 properties owned by Woodward, who is believed to be the richest member of the Cabinet.
Other claims included:-
Horse manure for garden, £10
Yucca plant, £9.99
Two cans of chicken and turkey cat food, 78p
Chocolate Santa, 59p
Two elephant-shaped lamps, £134.30
Potato peeler, £4.50
Wine rack, £14.99
Reusable plastic bag, Ikea, 5p
Ice cube tray, £1.50
Visits by mole catcher, £35 per quarter, £140 per year
Piano tuning, £40
Visit by pool maintenance man, £98.63
Visits by rat catcher, £199 per quarter, £796 per year
Pizza cutter, £3