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Former MP loses £1,000 expenses payback appeal

PUBLISHED: 15:30 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:36 25 August 2010

Former MP Nigel Beard

Former MP Nigel Beard

A FORMER MP has been ordered to pay back almost £1,000 in cleaning expenses after losing an appeal. Nigel Beard, (pictured) who lost his seat in 2005 as Bexleyheath and Crayford MP, was ordered to pay back £979.96 in cleaning costs on a second home after

A FORMER MP has been ordered to pay back almost £1,000 in cleaning expenses after losing an appeal.

Nigel Beard, (pictured) who lost his seat in 2005 as Bexleyheath and Crayford MP, was ordered to pay back £979.96 in cleaning costs on a second home after Sir Thomas Legg's audit.

Mr Beard appealed the decision but was told by appeals auditor Sir Paul Kennedy he must repay the money. He claimed £2,979.96 in his last full year in office, the equivalent of £248 per month. Commons auditor Sir Thomas Legg, appointed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to clean the expenses system up, said it exceeded the £2000 upper limit for cleaning set out in the ACA Review into second homes allowances.

Crayford Community and Business Forum member, Ian Lindon, said: "It's way above what an ordinary person would claim. I don't think it's morally justified, but the problem is that nothing was set in stone at the time the claims were put in, there was quite a lot of leeway."

It comes in the same week as three Labour MPs and one Tory peer - Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield - were charged under the Theft Act in relation to expenses claims.

Mr Lindon said: "The system is there and some have abused it. The system also allows MPs to appeal and you can't argue with that even if you feel it's morally unjustified.

"It has damaged all MPs and the ramifications are enormous - it's going to take an awfully long time to rebuild trust, which is a shame because not all MPs deserve it.

"I haven't decided which way I will vote yet, but who I trust will be a big factor."

David Evennett, Mr Beard's successor, has come out of the Commons' bombardment unscathed. He does not claim for a second home and has not been required to repay any expenses.

Mr Beard was unavailable for comment as the Times went to press but in his appeal he justified claiming a standard £248.30 per month "because I did not want my secretary and staff to spend time each month collecting receipts and pursuing cleaners, window cleaners, carpet cleaners laundry, etc. I took the view that they had more important things to do."

In his finding Sir Paul Kennedy says: "I entirely understand your sense of grievance at being required to repay for exceeding a limit of which you were not and could not have been aware, but my carefully restricted Terms of Reference do not permit me to re-open that part of the ACA Review decision.

"They only allow me to consider whether there are special reasons in your individual case which show that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment. I cannot discern any such reasons. I would therefore dismiss your appeal."

Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin has been told to repay about £130 in office costs, following an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

He refused to comment on the decision, which is separate to the Legg investigation.


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