Aren\’t we lucky to be ruled by such scum?

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.”

What exactly is the concern?

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…..

14 thoughts on “Aren\’t we lucky to be ruled by such scum?”

  1. Isn’t this analogous to tax avoidance rather than tax evasion?

    After all, it’s people sticking rigidly to the rules, claiming exactly and only those expenses that Parliament has determined may be claimed.

    And that being the case, there is nothing wrong being done at all. Is there.

  2. Far be it from me to defend politicians, as my opinion of them is on a par with estate agents and lawyers, but is the identity of an MP’s landlord actually relevant? Does it make any difference that an MP is renting from another MP or a random landlord? Surely the point is whether the MP actually needs a house in that location. If he or she does, then fine, pay the rent. Who it goes to is irrelevant. If such a house is not required for the MP to do the job, disallow the rent expenses. Banning an MP is renting a legitimately required house from another MP is not going to reduce the expenditure on MP’s expenses. And that surely is the goal, not moralising over who ends up with some of the cash.

  3. Jim,

    But the point of the changes was to prevent politicians building up a property nest-egg at taxpayers expense.

    Personally, if mortgage interest is cheaper than renting, for an appropriate property (or with a cap), I don’t have any problem with them buying rather than renting. The public interest, imnsho, being in getting the politicians for the least amount of scum-gelt.

    But it is quite common, in HM service, for you to get rent allowances (or have it paid for you) whereas if you buy, you are on your tod.

  4. I’d rather like to know because

    a) the bastards have got form
    b) I’m paying for it
    c) It’s contrary to what they promised when they got their fingers in the till last time
    d) If they do vote themselves a 40% pay rise (we’re all in it together!) I’d rather like to know where they all live…

  5. SE: how is it different from an MP having a buy to let that he lets to a person on housing benefit? Are we saying that MPs (unlike anyone else in society) cannot gain from anyone who is in receipt of State funds? Indeed why is OK for buy to let landlords to build up a property nest egg at the taxpayers expense, but not MPs?

    As far as I’m concerned, if the landlord (whoever that is) is providing a service that the State requires (house for an MP in his new constituency, or a bedsit for a single mum) then that’s what the State is paying for. Who gets the money is irrelevant. The State needs a service, its got it. If it doesn’t like the price, negotiate, or refuse to pay, and find another cheaper option. But don’t say everything is fine, but that you just don’t approve of the final person in the chain.

  6. Jim,

    You are confusing my opinion on the way things should be (re-read para 2 of #4) with, as John points out in #5c, the purpose of the changes.

    It was seen that MPs benefiting from property price rises while they were being paid expenses for that property. I’m not fashed how the system is constructed, provided that it works towards a lower cost provision. But, given the way the system was constructed – as a result of the whole expenses scandal – they are now trying to work around it in an underhand way.

  7. Why not simply stop giving MPs special privileges via this expenses system?

    Here in Germany, if you work a certain distance away from where you live you can rent/buy a second home and the costs are offsettable against your tax bill. A kind of second-home subsidy for everyone (who works a long way from home), no special provision for MPs needed.

    One would imagine that with MPing being the rather insecure employment that it is most would prefer to rent than buy their London home anyway.

  8. SE: well the simple solution to the rising house price problem (which has kind of disappeared now) would have been to remove the CGT principal residence tax break from any MPs house bought with expenses money.

  9. “SE: well the simple solution to the rising house price problem (which has kind of disappeared now) would have been to remove the CGT principal residence tax break from any MPs house bought with expenses money.”

    Money is fungible

  10. We need to end their expenses regime altogether. Build them a hall of residence, or buy and convert a large hotel. Give each of them a bed-sitting room with ensuite, and broadband, a kettle, and microwave. Provide security, admit no visitors.
    Almost forgot- we should ban smoking throughout the building, no exceptions.
    And provide a railway pass for the out of town MPs, to cover their travel to and from their constituencies.
    Everything else they should pay for out of their own salaries.

  11. Emil: “Money is fungible”: so it may be, but it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to draw up a law that says if you are claiming expenses for mortgage payments on a property as part of your employment, then you cannot claim principal residence relief on the same house, even if it is your principal residence. As I can’t think of any other profession/career that pays you expenses to buy a house, the only people caught by such a rule would be MPs.

  12. Sorry I can’t source this, but I read in the last few days (Graun?FT?) about the percentage of MPs who are landlords. It was high, over 10% for all parties (ridiculous for Tories, one had about 20 properties).

    Yes, they’re free to do what they want with their money, but they’re not collectively going to help young people to have affordable rents/homes.

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