Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace claimed £110k in tax-payer cash while collecting thousands renting out second home in London
Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace has been implicated in a 'sleaze' scandal involving 16 serving politicians who put rent on expenses while collecting thousands of pounds on second homes in London. Today, the defence secretary said it was 'the only option available' to him.
Four ministers in Boris Johnson’s government, including Mr Wallace, are among a group of MPs who have claimed more than £1m to cover their rent payments while letting properties in London.
Some 16 landlord MPs – 14 Conservatives and two Labour – have put their housing costs on expenses while earning more than £10,000 a year in rent income thanks to a 'loophole' which allows property-owning MPs to claim rented housing expenses.
Mr Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, claimed more than £110,000 in taxpayer-funded rent between April 2016 and July 2020.
Other ministers implicated in the scandal were trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who claimed £106,000 in expenses for her own rental payments since April 2016 while collecting on a London flat, prisons minister Victoria Atkins who claimed more than £43,000 while also charging rent on a property in the capital since April 2018, and junior treasury minister John Glen.
A spokesman for Mr Wallace said: “The allowance system was changed in 2014 which prevented MPs claiming costs for properties they used instead of hotels while working in London.
"At the time, Mr Wallace lived in the North West in his main home, and his London flat had a significant mortgage against it. Renting it out or selling the flat was the only option available. At all times Mr Wallace has declared the activity and has acted in accordance with the rules.”
The news follows allegations of 'sleaze' within the highest levels of the government after Tory MPs, with the backing of Boris Johnson, tried to save former cabinet minister Owen Paterson 30-day suspension from the House of Commons by voting to rip up the standards system.
Mr Paterson, who resigned as an MP on November 5, was found to have abused his government position to secure lucrative deals for companies he was paid by.
In March 2020, healthcare company Randox Laboratories, which paid Mr Paterson £8.333 per month for consultancy work, was awarded a £133 million contract from the Department of Health and Social Care to produce Covid-19 testing kits without any other firms being given the opportunity to bid for the work. A further £347 million contract was awarded to Randox six months later.
Mr Paterson was investigated by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, and was found to have committed a 'serious breach' of lobbying rules.
The vote to save the MP from disciplinary action was met with furious backlash. The Government made a U-turn on the motion, and it was officially rescinded in the House of Commons yesterday.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "I have listened carefully to the views expressed since the debate and decision on November 3, and I make it clear that Members of Parliament must uphold the highest standards in public life. We expect all members to abide by the prevailing rules of conduct. Paid lobbying is wrong and members found guilty of it should pay the necessary penalties. Our standards system must function robustly and fairly to support this so that it commands the confidence of members and the general public."
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here