MPs could be in for property windfall

SUFFOLK MPs are potentially in line for a controversial property windfall running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, it can be revealed today.It has emerged that the current expenses system means MPs can cover mortgage payments for second homes at the taxpayer's expense but are free to pocket any profit when selling up.

SUFFOLK MPs are potentially in line for a controversial property windfall running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, it can be revealed today.

It has emerged that the current expenses system means MPs can cover mortgage payments for second homes at the taxpayer's expense but are free to pocket any profit when selling up.

Since 1997 average property prices in London have trebled, increasing by a staggering £250,000 from around £120,000 in 1997.

As a result many MPs are now potentially sitting on a goldmine of equity.

Estimates suggest the majority of current MPs (75 per cent) use the expenses system to cover the interest on mortgage payments for mainly London-based second homes - at a cost of up to £22,110 a year.

It is unclear how many Suffolk MPs are in line to benefit from the situation as the majority were either reluctant to speak on the issue or were unavailable for comment.

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However they all claim for the cost of staying away from their main home.

Tim Yeo, Tory MP for South Suffolk, who claims £1,842 a month towards the cost of staying away from home, refused to say whether he rented or owned a property in the capital.

He said: “I have never commented on the details. “I make all disclosures required by parliamentary rules.”

Waveney MP, Bob Blizzard and Central Suffolk MP Michael Lord and Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer did not return calls made by The Evening Star.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring refused to publicly disclose his circumstances but defended the existing situation claiming MPs take a “market risk” buying second properties.

Labour MP for Ipswich, Chris Mole, revealed he bought a property in the capital in 2004 after renting for three years when he was elected to parliament in 2001.

He claims back the cost of the interest-only mortgage through expenses and admitted there is a chance he will make a profit.

He said: “There is equally a risk that property prices could go down and some of the investment is my own as it is quite difficult to get a 100 per cent mortgage.

“I think people who bought ten to 15 years ago can probably guarantee that they will be better off as is the case with any property investment. I don't see myself as being in that situation.”

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley revealed he is definitely not in line for an equity windfall as he uses the additional costs allowance to cover renting a home in his constituency.

The potential for MPs to make a killing on the property market has come in for heavy criticism.

Mark Wallace, of campaign group the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “If taxes are used to buy part or all of a property, it's only fair that when the MP leaves parliament any profits should go back into the public purse.

“People view politicians with distrust - changing this system and giving the taxpayer a better deal would be a good start in improving their reputation.”

n. Should MPs be allowed to pocket any increases in price of taxpayer-funded homes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Elected 2007 claim per month rent or own?

Richard Spring 1992 - £22,110 £1,842 refused to disclose

Tim Yeo 1983 - £22,110 £1,842 refused to disclose

David Ruffley 1997 - £17,021 £1,418 rents a constituency property

Michael Lord 1983 - £22,110 £1,842 unavailable

Chris Mole 2001 - £15,227 £1,269 owns - interest only mortgage

John Gummer 1970-74, 1979 - £22,110 £1,842 unavailable

Bob Blizzard 1997 - £22,108 £1,842 unavailable

The Additional Costs Allowance (cost of staying away from main home) is paid to reimburse members for necessary costs incurred when staying overnight away from their main home for the purpose of performing parliamentary duties. Inner London MPs do not receive this allowance.

Back in October 2007 the government said it could not provide details of how many members used the Additional Costs Allowance to (a) pay for rent or (b) cover mortgage interest payments.

Answering a parliamentary question, Jack Straw MP said the information was not available “in the form requested” and could “only be provided at disproportionate cost”.

He did reveal, however, that a sample check in 2006 by the Department of Finance and Administration suggested that 20 per cent of members use the ACA to rent a property and 75 pc to meet mortgage interest costs.