Yarmouth MP cleared over second home

PUBLISHED: 08:42 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 30 June 2010

Ex-Norwich MP Ian Gibson last night vowed to repay over £16,000 to the taxpayer over the London 'second home' flat that destroyed his political career.

Ex-Norwich MP Ian Gibson last night vowed to repay over £16,000 to the taxpayer over the London 'second home' flat that destroyed his political career.

A report by parliamentary 'sleazebuster' Sir Thomas Legg ruled that he was wrong to claim a total of £32,051.63 for mortgage interest and utilities for the flat in Hammersmith between April 2004 and February 2008 because his adult daughter had been allowed to live there rent-free. “He should have shared the cost with her”, he concluded, recommending a repayment of half the sum claimed - £16,025.

In total, Sir Thomas asked for the repayment of over £1.1m from over 350 MPs for invalidly claimed second home expenses. And the issue will be ratcheted up again today when the Crown Prosecution Service announces what decision it has reached over the half-dozen MPs and peers it has been investigating.

Sir Thomas's report noted that no money that had yet been received from Dr Gibson.

However, last night, sources close to Dr Gibson said that he was determined to re-pay the money but was just waiting to find out where to send it.

The repayment would be voluntary as the parliamentary authorities would have no sanctions to employ against him. He has no salary or allowance they can cut into, and there is no power to recover money from his pension.

Dr Gibson's immediate resignation from the Commons when he was de-selected by the national Labour Party after his second home expenses claims had hit the headlines triggered a by-election in his Norwich North seat which was won by Chloe Smith for the Tories.

In stepping down then, rather than waiting until the general election, he forfeited a 'resettlement grant', of up to £65,000, that is supposed to help ex-MPs 'adjust to non-parliamentary life'.

Two Norfolk MPs, Keith Simpson and Christopher Fraser, have also been asked to refund money. Mr Simpson (Tory, Mid Norfolk) has been asked for £330.61 for wrongly claimed phone bills (one was claimed twice and the rest were for his constituency office rather than his second home). Mr Fraser (Tory, SW Norfolk) has been told to repay a rent overpayment of £193.55.

Sir Thomas also ruled that Waveney Labour MP Bob Blizzard, the deputy minister for the eastern region, was “overpaid” £3,872.79 for mortgage interest in 2005-06 and 2008-09 - of which £1437.87 has so far been repaid. This was dwarfed by a judgment that the minister for the region, Barbara Follett, should refund a total of £42,458. Much of this was accounted for by a bill of £34,777 for mobile security patrols at her second home that Sir Thomas considered excessive.

Suffolk Coastal Tory MP and former cabinet minister John Gummer has repaid £29,398.46 that should not have been claimed for gardening and cleaning costs.

The report confirms that Norwich South MP and former home secretary Charles Clarke has fully won an appeal against an initial judgment that he had received £743.64 too much for mortgage interest in 2004-05 and 2008-09, and that the repayment request has been reduced to zero.

Four other Norfolk MPs, Richard Bacon (South Norfolk), Henry Bellingham (NW Norfolk), Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) and Tony Wright (Yarmouth) have been adjudged by Sir Thomas to have “no issues” standing against them over their second home claims. So was former MP Baroness (Gillian) Shephard. And Ms Smith won her Norwich seat after the period that was investigated.

Central Suffolk MP, and Deputy Commons Speaker, Michael Lord has been asked to refund £5074 claimed for gardening and mortgage interest, and West Suffolk Tory MP Richard Spring £510 for a mortgage arrangement fee claimed twice. But Sir Thomas also had “no issues” with David Ruffley (Tory, Bury St Edmunds) and Malcolm Moss (Tory, Cambridgeshire NE).

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