MP defends himself in London rent row
Bath MP Don Foster says "disgraceful" rules mean taxpayers are losing out over Parliamentary expenses.
He is among three senior south west political figures named in a list of 27 MPs who let out properties in London, while claiming public money to rent elsewhere in the capital.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has banned MPs from claiming mortgage interest repayments, and they can now only claim expenses for renting, in a move intended to head off criticism after the scandal of three years ago that MPs had used public money to build property empires.
The practice of claiming rent while owning a property does not break any rules, and IPSA also allows four MPs to rent from four other politicians.
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But Mr Foster, now a communities minister, has faced criticism from political blogger Guido Fawkes, after moving out of the flat he owns in London, and into rented accommodation.
Fawkes wrote: "The new system expects MPs to pay their own mortgage on properties they own. As the property is yours, Don, as you so proudly state, then why not live in it and pay to do so out of your salary? Why should the taxpayer pay for you to rent when you have your own property already?"
The Liberal Democrat MP said the ban on mortgage interest payments was now costing the taxpayer dear.
"I genuinely don't quite know what the story is. I used to live in a property that I owned in Westminster, and I was able under the previous rules to claim the interest on the mortgage.
"When IPSA changed the rules I was no longer able to do that so I had to move into rented property, and I could have sold the flat or rented it out. It is mine, I paid for it, and I chose at the bottom of the market to rent it (out), and that is what I currently do. I may one day sell it, or may carry on renting it out.
"It is an absolute disgrace that we have a system that says Don Foster can't live in a property he owns, and claim about £400 per month less than he currently claims.
"They changed the rule to make it look supposedly better, but it has cost the taxpayer hundreds of pounds more per MP than it needed to have done just to look good, and I have absolutely no idea what it is I am doing wrong."
Shadow cabinet ministers Andy Burnham and Jim Murphy, former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and Tories Aidan Burley and Philip Davies are among other MPs named as claiming rent while letting out another property.
IPSA insisted that MPs letting out properties was "an issue of their own private financial affairs over which we rightly have no authority. We cannot say an MP should not own a property or properties, or restrict what they do with those properties on the open market".