By Martin Kelly
Scottish Labour MP Jim Murphy is one of 27 MPs caught up in a new expenses scandal that threatens to re-ignite the controversy over public cash claimed by Westminster politicians.
According to reports, the MP for East Renfrewshire is among those listed as raking in income by letting out their London properties while claiming up to £20,000 a year to rent in the city.
The Labour MP, and former Secretary of State for Scotland who is now Labour’s Shadow Defence spokesman, finds himself embroiled in the new expenses scandal after his name was uncovered by researchers working for the Daily Telegraph.
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, had written to the expenses regulator Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) expressing “security concerns” and warning him not to release documents which identified the landlords of MPs who claim rent expenses.
However, using partial information released by Ipsa, the paper discovered that Murphy was among many MPs who are profiting from a loophole that allows them to lease out their private property for lucrative rents whilst claiming their own rental costs.
The move does not break new rules which were introduced to prevent MPs from claiming mortgage interest payments on homes they purchased. However, the revelations are bound to anger members of the public after the previous scandal led to some MPs being sent to prison.
It has emerged that four MPs are currently renting from four other MPs. In one situation, according to the Daily Mail, Linda Riordan, the Labour MP for Halifax, lets her London flat to fellow Labour MP Iain McKenzie for £18,720 a year.
In the last expenses scandal, Mr Murphy emerged unscathed despite a list of eye opening expense claims.
Mr Murphy, who became Secretary Of State for Scotland in 2008, claimed almost £2000 of public cash in order to pay private accountants to handle his tax returns.
Expenses documents made available show that the East Renfrewshire Labour MP has claimed over £1 million since 2001/2. Murphy’s claims in 2007/8 included food (£3900) and petty cash (£2284.15), claims for which no receipts were required.
He also claimed £249 for a TV set and a further £99 for a TV stand; £1762.50 of taxpayers money paid for Murphy’s website whilst further claims included Labour party adverts in the local press and a new bathroom costing £4884.
So great were Murphy’s expenses in 2007/8 that he was forced to pay back £3499 of the bathroom costs.
Labour’s Secretary of State for Scotland also designated his constituency home in Glasgow as his second home, for which he claimed £780 per month in mortgage interest payments in 2007-08. His total claims under the additional costs allowance between 2004 and 2008 came to £87,086.