Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Labour Minister - Expense Fraud

Tony McNulty - He's doing just fine out of us

A Government minister who claimed £60,000 in allowances for the house where his parents live has been reported to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner - by his local Tory MP.

Tony McNulty, the Employment Minister, claimed "second home allowance" for the house in his Harrow East constituency, in northwest London, from 2001 until earlier this year, even though he moved out in 2002 after getting married for the second time.

Mr McNulty lives nine miles away in Hammersmith, whose MP, the Tory frontbencher Greg Hands, reported him today to John Lyon, the Commons standards watchdog.

"Charging as the Member of Parliament for Harrow for a second home in Harrow when you are living in Hammersmith, and neither of these places are very far from Westminster to start with, and at the same time in that second home are living the MP’s parents, then clearly there has got to be an inquiry," Mr Hands said.
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Mr McNulty insists that his claims are legitimate because he used to sleep in the house when he was first an MP. He says that he still uses the house as an constituency office.

But the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, questioned the claim today and said that Mr McNulty might have to pay back some of the money.

"He talks about using it as a base to do constituency work, but he didn’t say that he stayed overnight there," Sir Alistair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "I think he has a few questions to answer and if he was not staying overnight there there probably should be some money repaid."

It emerged today that the standards committee, set up by John Major in 1994 to help clean up politics - is again considering a wide-ranging review of MPs' expenses, although sources close to the body said that that was not directly linked to the controversy surrounding Mr McNulty.

Sir Alistair, who chaired the committee from 2004 to 2007, backed the call for a full review.

"I think the important thing is that it has been left to MPs to sort out their own arrangements and I think that is a slightly absurd arrangement. I don’t think the public feel they can trust them in this area," he said.

Among those criticising the claim today was Alan Duncan, the Shadow Leader of the Commons, who told the BBC that it was "not clear" that Mr McNulty had operated within the rules.

"The allowance is for a second home, it is not for a constituency office. There he is brazenly trying to bat this away by saying, ’Oh well, the system is not very good but I didn’t do anything wrong’," Mr Duncan said. "There are some serious questions still to be answered."

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