Archive for May, 2009

Updated 2nd June 2009 10.15 hrs
Last Friday Jeremy Hunt MP held a public meeting to explain himself over his expenses.

In response to my questions Mr Hunt admitted that the Conservative Party Agent for the area has lived rent-free in his taxpayer funded ‘second home’ in Farnham.

Current Parliamentary rules say,

‘Claims cannot relate to party political activity of any sort, nor must any claim provide a benefit to a party political organisation’.

The 2006 rules said,

‘You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA (second home) claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is obtaining immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.’

Taxpayers are entitled to ask why we are paying for the Conservative Party’s professional agent to have free accommodation at taxpayers expense in Jeremy Hunt’s second home.

Jeremy Hunt said at the public meeting that he thought this was for just 7 months ‘after the election’ and that he had allowed her to use a room, but after I emailed him to ask him to explain how his agent was on the electoral roll up to September 2008, Mr Hunt changed his account of events.

He now says that she lived there for over 2 years after the election.

In contrast local residents interviewed by a reporter said that they ‘never see’ Jeremy Hunt at the address.

Jeremy Hunt says that his Hammersmith address is his main home. He has owned this property from October 1997.

In the interests of genuine ‘transparency’ I call on Jeremy Hunt to explain himself fully. Perhaps he might explain to his electorate why he thought it was OK to have his Political Agent live at his taxpayer-funded ‘second home’. We await with much interest his attempt to justify this sorry state of affairs.

Speaking at the hustings in Farnham

Mike Simpson has called on the Conservative MP for South West Surrey to explain why he has claimed over £37,000 in his first 3 years as an MP for ‘the cost of staying away from his main home’, rather than commute to London from Farnham. Farnham is just 45 miles from Westminster and trains take less than an hour to Waterloo.

Mike Simpson, the new Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate says “If Mr Hunt think he needs a third home he should tell us how he justifies the expense to the taxpayer”.

The figures published for Jeremy Hunt, for the first 3 years he has been an MP, show that he claimed an average of £12,566 per year despite having a home in Farnham and a ‘half-share of a holiday house in Italy’. He is also reported (by the Spectator Magazine) to own a home in Hammersmith. You can read the Spectator report on Jeremy Hunt’s wealth and property by clicking here.

‘Extraordinary’ expense

Mike Simpson said, “If Mr Hunt does not own a home in Hammersmith it begs the question where does he live? He is now claiming ‘SECOND HOME’ expenses for his home in Farnham! It is extraordinary that the Conservative MP claims thousands of pounds every year for accommodation, when so many of his constituents commute into London. There are plenty of late trains or he could drive the 45 miles back to his home in Farnham. He is a wealthy man and I wonder why he thinks the taxpayer should pick up the tab if he chooses to have a third home somewhere else.”

Mike Simpson would commute to Westminster if elected

Mike Simpson has made a commitment that if he is elected he will commute to London and would not be charging the taxpayer for any second home expenses. “As I am not an MP at present, I can’t afford two homes, let alone three and if elected I can say now that I would not claim a penny for a second home. I just can’t see how Jeremy Hunt justifies at least £37,000 in 3 years for an alternative home paid for by the taxpayer. In addition to this money we have still not been told how much he has claimed for 2008/9. Why is he keeping silent on these matters?”

Other amounts claimed by Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt also claimed over £54,000 from the ‘The Incidental Expenses Provision’, which can be used ‘to meet the cost of: accommodation for office or surgery use; equipment and supplies for office or surgery; work commissioned or other services; and certain travel and communications’.

He also claimed £10,668 in 2007/8 from the ‘Communications Allowance’, which includes paying for websites and constituency newsletters.

These expenses exclude the substantial sums claimed for staff to support his work.

Mike Simpson Liberal Democrat candidate for South West Surrey in the May 2010 General Election

Who would be an M.P. these days? It’s a hard life for them travelling between multiple residences, having to submit expense claims for every can of cat food or bag of manure, arranging to have one’s swimming pool cleaned on the state… and all for a salary of just £64,000 plus tax free expenses which are embarrassingly splashed across the front pages.

Once upon a time it was an honour to be elected as a Member of Parliament. The scandal that has been rightly exposed over the last week or so is no joke. We need to shake up our whole political system and make politicians much more accountable for their behaviour. Part of the problem is the fact that MPs seem to expect to live a privileged existence at taxpayers’ expense.

There are of course good M.P.s in all Parties, but not enough of them understand ordinary people’s lives and struggles.

When there are such dire economic circumstances and we face so many huge challenges, it is critical that people can trust their elected representatives to act honourably and without duplicity. It is clearly not good enough for M.P.s to say, ‘I kept to the rules’, because they drew up the rules allowing themselves to rip off the taxpayers. It is especially galling when the rest of us have to tighten our belts.

I aspire to be the M.P. for South West Surrey, but the torrent of shocking news about M.P.’s expenses makes me wonder how few people will even turn out to vote at the next General Election. The number of people using the phrase, ‘You’re all as bad as each other’ is likely to rocket and who can blame people for thinking that?

The problem is that the political class don’t want to give up any of their power or the accompanying perks. They have the same attitude as the top bankers who have so comprehensively messed up our economy. We must challenge the politicians and make them genuinely accountable to the public, because they, along with the bankers, have failed us so spectacularly. Challenging those in power, particularly for the sake of the less powerful, is one reason why I am in politics. And I still believe it can be a noble profession.

You can read more about my background and experience by clicking ‘About Mike Simpson’