Statement on expenses - May 2009

After I was elected in 2005 I realised that I would need a place in the constituency as well as London as the extraordinary hours of the job would make daily commuting unrealistic, so my partner Jason and I purchased a second home in Arundel.

I have claimed towards some of the cost of this, but only for some of the stamp duty (a one-off payment) and monthly mortgage interest. We make the capital repayments ourselves.

I do not claim for any household items, and we have not ‘flipped’ to re-designate our main home, as it’s always been clear that we spend more nights a week in London than in West Sussex. We always assumed that we would pay Capital Gains Tax on our house in Arundel, and we thought it was right to pay full council tax both in London and West Sussex – we do not claim any discount.

I was therefore surprised and disappointed when the Daily Telegraph implied this week that I had done something wrong. Their sole objection was that my second home is co-owned by Jason, but they did not raise this concern in relation to other MPs whose second homes are co-owned by their husband or wife. I believe that it’s right that the Commons rules are non discriminatory by treating partners and civil partners in the same way as spouses. David Cameron took the same view, and that is why I do not appear in the list of Shadow Cabinet members who have been asked to repay claims.

I understand the public’s anger about unjustifiable expense claims and I am very sorry indeed that we have let everyone down so badly. I strongly believe that MPs should spend taxpayers’ money with great care and only claim expenses when absolutely necessary. I also believe the public has a right to know how these funds are spent. Expenses should be reasonable and they should be audited. I have always voted for full transparency and tougher rules, and I strongly support the lead taken by David Cameron to clean up the entire system.

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Read Nick's article on expenses here

Read David Cameron's statement on expenses here: http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/05/David_Cameron_Action_on_expenses.aspx

 

Letter from Councillor Roger Arthur to the West Sussex County Times (15 May 2009):

The media has successfully exposed the widespread misuse of MP's expenses on second homes.

However, the report, in Monday's Telegraph that the MP for Arundel & South Downs was wrong to claim expenses on a second home in Arundel, seems to have crossed a bridge too far.

The Telegraph implied that Nick Herbert should not have claimed all costs associated with that home, because he lives there with his civil partner.

However, if another MP lived in a second home, with his wife, then presumably that MP's right to re-claim purchase costs would not have been questioned.

Unfortunately the DT’s report will have left some readers with an impression that our MP is no better than those who have blatantly misused the system.

By that distortion they will have undone a lot of the good work, which he has done for his constituents, since he was elected.

Some MPs may exploit the system, without achieving much in return, but Nick Herbert is not one of them. He is a hard worker, with a lot to give.

The free press plays an important part in our democratic system, but reports such as the Telegraph's denigrate some who have taken on the burden of high office, in the genuine belief that they can achieve something useful.

Having seen the good impugned, as well as the bad, we must not be too surprised if there is eventually no one of any calibre left, who wants to stand for Public Office.

ROGER ARTHUR

(Con) Horsham district Councillor for Chanctonbury Park House, North Street, Horsham

Ed Barker