John Bercow has written to the expenses regulator warning him not to disclose official documents that show the identities of MPs’ landlords for “security” reasons.
Publication of the names, which was supposed to take place today, would expose the extent to which MPs are exploiting a loophole in the rules that allows politicians to rent their homes to one another. The loophole means that MPs can still effectively build up property nest eggs at taxpayers’ expense, despite official attempts to stop the practice following the expenses scandal.
Sources at the expenses regulator confirmed that “some MPs” were engaged in the practice.
In a letter released last night, it emerged that Mr Bercow had written to the regulator claiming that publication of details of MPs’ landlords jeopardised their security and had led to “grave concerns” in the House of Commons.
“The processing of the data … could involve causing unwarranted damage and distress,” the Speaker wrote in the letter to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa). “I should be grateful if you and your colleagues would reconsider such a plan.”
Well, MPs can no longer claim mortgage interest on their expenses. But they can claim market rent.
So, if the MP for Lower Morals buys a house in London then rents it out to the MP for Lesser Morals who has also bought a house but is renting that house to the MP for Lower Morals then both get their mortgage paid even while none are claiming for mortgage interest.
Is it happening? Who knows, which is the problem.
There is another side to this of course. Ex-MPs might well be renting to current. After all, when one is thrown out at an election then there is a house sitting rather empty in London and someone looking around for a house in London.
Distinguishing between these is rather why we would like to know who is renting from whom…..