Charles Clarke wins expenses appeal

Sarah HallNorwich MP Charles Clarke will not have to pay back almost �750 of 'second home' expenses after successfully challenging an official request by the parliamentary watchdog.Sarah Hall

Norwich MP Charles Clarke will not have to pay back almost �750 of 'second home' expenses after successfully challenging an official request by the parliamentary watchdog.

The Norwich South MP was among 80 who appealed to Sir Paul Kennedy, a former appeal court judge, because they felt the demands by Sir Thomas Legg demands were unjustified.

Sir Thomas was charged with auditing MPs' expenses, after the scandals which rocked Parliament last May, and he retrospectively changed the rules on how much they could claim.

He wrote to every MP about their second home expenses claims between 2004 and 2008, with some being told they needed to pay back money, some being asked for more information and some told they were in the clear.

But Sir Paul, who was appointed to hear appeals amid uproar at Sir Thomas's rulings last year, yesterday sent letters to a number of MPs who appealed, including Mr Clarke.

Mr Clarke said: 'Sir Paul Kennedy has written to me confirming that he is allowing my appeal against Sir Thomas Legg's initial judgement that I should repay some expenses. He states that there are reasons why 'it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment'.

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'I am delighted with this authoritative judgement which confirms that I have behaved properly in regards to my own expenses claims as a Member of Parliament.'

The repayment request made to Mr Clarke was for �743.64 and covered mortgage interest claims for two separate periods in 2004/05 and 2008/09.

It is understood the request stemmed from a practice by Mr Clarke of claiming mortgage interest 'in arrears' on the basis of the previous year's statement of mortgage interest from his mortgage lender.

That was a procedure which was fully agreed with the Commons fees office, but which made it appear Mr Clarke had overclaimed for those two periods when, in fact, in meant other years saw him underclaim.

It is understood that Sir Paul's letter stated over the five year period, the underclaims exceeded the overclaims by more than �2,500.

Others who received letters from Sir Paul yesterday included Liberal Democrat frontbencher Jeremy Browne and Thanet North Conservative MP Roger Gale.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson had already agreed to repay about �350 for a telephone bill which was mistakenly claimed for twice.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson was the biggest casualty in Norfolk of the expenses scandal. He resigned after the Labour 'star chamber' ruled he could not stand in the next general election, triggering the by-election which was won by Conservative MP Chloe Smith.

Dr Gibson had claimed almost �80,000 in second home expenses on a London flat which he later sold at a knock-down price to his daughter, who had lived there with her partner.