Darling, what about those MP expenses claims?

That the Better Together campaign was launched the same day David Cameron announced a new anti-welfare policy, is not their fault: Cameron was simply not concerned about how this would play in Scotland.

That Alastair Darling is the Labour lead is… a plan so cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel?

Before September 2005, Alastair Darling rented a room in a flat owned by a Labour peer, Lewis Moonie. This was his main home. His home in Edinburgh was his second home, though he has been an elected representative in Edinburgh since 1982 when he won a seat on Lothian Regional Council. That meant he could claim £1145 per month towards his Edinburgh mortgage, plus £284 towards his council tax, plus £300 a month for food.

In September 2005, Alastair Darling

told the fees office that Edinburgh was now his first home and transferred his “second home” allowance to London. He bought a flat near the Oval cricket ground for £226,000.

Taxpayers paid the stamp duty of £2,260 and a further £1,238 for legal fees. In his first month at the Oval flat, Mr Darling claimed £2,074 for furniture, including £765 from Ikea and a £768 bed from Marks and Spencer. Carpeting the flat in “magnolia” cost the public finances a further £2,339.

He attempted to claim a hotel bill while the flat was being renovated. However, the fees office refused to pay the £146 bill in September, because he was claiming his “second home” was in London.

The authorities subsequently agreed to pay the bill after an appeal from Mr Darling on the grounds that he was “between second homes”.

Alastair Darling was been a Cabinet Minister in one position or another from 1997 to 2010. Between 2002 and 2006 he was Minister for Transport, and from 2003, he was also the Scottish Secretary. The decision to flip his second home allowance does not appear to correspond with any change in Cabinet position. But in June 2007, after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Darling became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and received a grace-and-favour Downing Street apartment. Since October 2007, Darling has declared that he is renting out his London flat.

Initially, Mr Darling claimed that 11 Downing Street – the Chancellor’s residence – was his “second home”.

Under parliamentary rules, this meant that the only expenses he could claim were for groceries.

Darling claimed £300 a month for food. He also claimed the service charge till December 2007 on his London flat. He also claimed for tax advice on renting out his London flat. In fact, after Darling moved into the grace-and-favour flat in Downing Street he

began to claim second home allowances for his grace-and-favour apartments, meaning that costs relating to two of the Chancellor’s homes were being met by the taxpayer. That would appear to contravene parliamentary rules that allow MPs to claim on only one property at a time. He was also receiving rent for his flat from at least September 2007.

Within a few months [in 2007], he changed his “second home” again – this time, back to his Edinburgh home.

He has since claimed about £1,200 a month in council tax and mortgage. Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, told the Government in January, 2007, that it was unacceptable for ministers with grace-and-favour properties to continue claiming the second home allowance.

However, it was only in the past fortnight [8th May 2009] – under pressure from David Cameron – that the Prime Minister has closed the loophole.

So, as the BBC summarised it: “Despite living rent-free at 11 Downing Street, Mr Darling claims thousands in second-home payments on his Edinburgh constituency home while also renting out his London flat – designated as his main home.” In April 2009, Alastair Darling’s spokeswoman told the BBC:

His spokeswoman said he was taxed on the benefit of living in Downing Street and paid council tax there.

“Alistair Darling moved as chancellor into Downing St in 2007 – No 11 Downing Street became his main home – so his Edinburgh home was re-designated as his second home.

“His own London home was rented out to cover costs and this was openly declared in the register of members’ interests,” she said.

She said he did not claim the maximum allowance for his second home in Edinburgh. Last year he claimed £9,837 of the total £23,083 allowed.

On 1st June, three years ago, Alastair Darling apologised “unreservedly” for claiming the July-December service charge for his London flat in 2007, but not for flipping his second home designation nor for claiming his tax accountant as an MP expense.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has apologised “unreservedly” over an expenses claim he made on a flat which he moved out of shortly afterwards.

He said he was “very sorry” and had always tried to make sure he did the “right thing” during his time as an MP.

He is to repay part of a £1,000 six-monthly service charge, on a flat he moved out of two months later.

Alastair Darling isn’t the worst or the most sickening of MP Expenses claimants – but he did unquestionably flip his second home designation to profit himself at taxpayers expense, and was able to do so because Westminister expenses claims were a regular gravy train for those eligible to benefit from them.

If an MP has to declare an interest, is Alastair Darling’s Edinburgh house or his London flat currently his second home, and was that decision made on anything but how much he could claim on his “second home”?

So, Darling. When you talk about the benefits of Scotland staying in the UK, what about your MP expenses?

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2 Comments

Filed under Benefits, Corruption, Tax Avoidance

2 responses to “Darling, what about those MP expenses claims?

  1. Captain Darling, like his namesake (in Blackadder) is doing his best to use his position to survive. But like his namesake, he appears to be destined to perish!

  2. PS – Darling’s cunning plan is as cunning as one devised by Professor of cunning at Oxford university. (or was that Baldrick? So difficult to know which is which).

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