Clarke Whines About Repaying Cash.
Norwich South MP and former home secretary Charles Clarke is challenging an official request to repay almost £750 of ‘second home’ parliamentary expenses.
Mr Clarke “strongly disputes” the decision made by watchdog Sir Thomas Legg and has lodged an appeal with former Appeal Court judge Sir Paul Kennedy.
He is one of about 80 MPs who have refused to accept the verdict of Sir Thomas, a former top civil servant in Whitehall, that they made wrong or excessive ‘additional cost allowance’ claims for second homes in the past five years.
They are among approximately 200 MPs who have been asked to repay a total sum running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. And these include Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson, who has agreed to pay back about £350 for a telephone bill mistakenly claimed twice.
The repayment request made to Mr Clarke is for £743.64 and covers mortgage interest claims for two separate periods – in 2004-05 and 2008-09. He has denounced the ruling as “arbitrary and without justification”, but in going to appeal has stressed that he will abide by Sir Paul’s verdict on it.
After asking the Norwich South MP in October for more information about mortgage interest statements, Sir Thomas wrote to him again this month recommending that he repay ‘over-claims’ of £400.34 for 2004-05 and £343.30 for 2008-09.
The EDP understands that this stems from a practice by Mr Clarke of claiming mortgage interest ‘in arrears’ on the basis of the previous year’s statement of mortgage interest from his mortgage lender – and that this procedure was fully agreed with the Commons fees office, and was not criticised in any way by a statement from Sir Thomas on his review’s approach to the second home rules.
Though this led to the ‘over-claims’ in 2004-5 and 2008-9, it is believed that – according to Sir Thomas’s own figures – it also resulted in significant ‘under-claims’, totalling £2,539.42, in the three years 2005-08.
The EDP has also been informed that Mr Clarke wrote to Sir Thomas on December 15 requesting that his final judgement either reduced the requested repayment to zero, or formally noted that he had ‘under-claimed’ to the level indicated in those figures, and stating that in the latter case he would request a repayment.
On learning that Sir Thomas was not prepared to revise his final judgement, even though his office did confirm that “in three out of five years of the review period” he had received “a substantial underpayment for mortgage interest”, Mr Clarke decided to make a formal appeal to Sir Paul.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, SW Norfolk’s Christopher Fraser and North Norfolk’s Norman Lamb have been told by Sir Thomas Legg that they do not need to make any repayments.
The EDP has been unable to get comments from Tony Wright (Yarmouth), Bob Blizzard (Waveney) and Henry Bellingham (NW Norfolk) about their situations concerning the Legg review.
The period covered preceded Chloe Smith’s election in Norwich North.