March 23, 2009
It is time to kick the crooks and thieves out of Westminster. Labour cabinet minister Tony McNulty has admitted he does not really deserve the £60,000 of taxpayers’ cash he has pocketed for his “parliamentary second home” which is actually his parents’ house and has agreed to pay the money back.
Mr McNulty has claimed that he was just “following the rules” but has admitted that this was “also the defence at Nuremburg.” As he has been a Member of Parliament since 1997 and knows the rules very well - it is thus impossible he would not have known that he was grossly exploiting the second home allowance.
Mr McNulty’s actual home is just three miles from Westminster. Despite this, he was claiming up to £14,000 a year in “expenses” for a second lavish home in Harrow, where his parents live.
When confronted, Mr McNulty said “it’s all within the rules.” He and his wife - a chief schools inspector - together earn a cool £300,000 per year, and therefore have no need of more money.
There can be little doubt that if this scandal had not been exposed, Mr McNulty would have quite happily carried on ripping off the taxpayer. “I have always felt some discomfort in claiming the money, to be frank. I decided that it’s simply time that I stopped,” he said.
Mr McNulty is not the only MP engaged in this flagrant swindle.
The mortgage on Tory MP Ann Winterton’s Belgravia flat, purchased in the mid-nineties, was paid off in full by the taxpayers over a decade. By 2002 Mr and Mrs Winterton were the owners of the now mortgage free property worth £700,000. But the Wintertons also had a problem: no mortgage meant no housing allowance.
No problem, Mrs Winterton decided. All that had to be done was put the house into a trust (allegedly to avoid inheritance tax) and “rent” it from the trust. This means that they once again had a rent cost, and could claim tens of thousands of pounds from the taxpayer.
The sting in the tale is, however, that Mr and Mrs Winterton are the trustees of the trust which owns the property. So this was how the swindle worked: The trustees (the Wintertons) charge the tenants (the Wintertons) £21,600 a year rent, which is paid by the taxpayers.
That arrangement netted them £108,000 tax free (equivalent before tax to £180,000 to us ordinary mortals) before they were rumbled and forced to stop.
Children’s Minister Ed Balls and his wife Yvette are yet more top class “second house allowance” swindlers. Mr and Mrs Balls have registered their North London house as a “second home” under parliamentary rules, entitling them to allowances of up to £43,200 a year to subsidise their £438,000 mortgage.
The home in Yorkshire nearer to their constituencies was previously called their second home. But by simply declaring their more expensive London house to be their secondary residence, they can claim more money from taxpayers.
The rules state that their primary residence, against which they cannot claim, is the home in which they are ordinarily resident. They spend most of their time in London at their “second home” and their kids go to schools locally.
When challenged on TV about this, Mr Balls said “it is complicated.” It is not. The reality is that Mr Balls lied about where his primary residence is in order to defraud the taxpayer.
In February this year, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was investigated and “cleared” by the Commons authorities for her claims. She declared that her main residence was her constituency home in the West Midlands, allowing her to claim thousands for the home she shares during the week with her sister in South London.
In 2003, Tory MP Michael Trend was forced to repay £90,000 after it was proven that he had claimed a second-home allowance for eight years. He never had a second home, and the property for which he was claiming was his only home.
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