Innocently, I had thought that Lib Dem MPs were immune from the malodour lingering over the House of Commons after the expenses scandal. Hadn’t Nick Clegg given the impression that his party was whiter than white? What then to make of this – courtesy of PA?
Four Liberal Democrat MPs were ordered today to apologise to the House of Commons and repay money after an inquiry into cash they received from the landlord of taxpayer-funded second homes in Westminster.
John Barrett, Sandra Gidley, Paul Holmes and Richard Younger-Ross showed “serious misjudgment”, the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee said.
No action was recommended on lesser “misjudgments” by Sir Alan Beith and former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the six – all tenants of Dolphin Square near Parliament, which houses many MPs’ flats – had referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and urged Gordon Brown and David Cameron to order their MPs with second homes in the apartment block to do the same.
What happened was basically this. At the sale of the Dolphin Square estate in 2005, tenants were given a big lump sum in return for moving out or paying a higher rent.
Gidley and Holmes both took the money (£18,751 and £9,950 respectively) but moved into smaller flats, so their rent did not rise.
Barrett and Younger-Ross also took the money (£11,234 and £8,031 respectively) and ended up paying higher rent – which was then paid on the additional cost allowance.
All four have now been asked by the committee on standards and privileges to pay back a proportion of those lump sums; although today’s report does make clear that the windfalls the MPs received “did not come from the public purse”.
The key quote from John Lyon, the commissioner: “The effect of members not making over these payments to the House was to put their private interest above their public interest, contrary to the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.”