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Beith publishes full Telegraph questions and answers

May 22, 2009 11:00 AM

A piece in the Daily Telegraph published on Friday 22 May 2009 implied that Sir Alan Beith MP and his wife Diana, who sits in the House of Lords as Baroness Maddock, have in some way benefited from expenses claims in relation to a rented flat in London.

The Telegraph emailed Sir Alan at 10:55 on Thursday morning with a series of questions about his expenses. Sir Alan emailed his responses to the questions at 2:11 on Thursday afternoon, well before the 5pm deadline set by the paper. However, almost nothing of Sir Alan's replies appeared in the printed or online article by the Telegraph.

Here are the Telegraph's questions and Sir Alan's responses in full:

From: Gordon Rayner

Subject: expenses

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Sir Alan Beith,

The Daily Telegraph is investigating the expense claims made by MPs under the Parliamentary additional costs allowance system.

We are considering publishing an article in tomorrow's newspaper (22nd May 2009) which will contain details of your expense claims.

We are aware of the provisions of the statutory instrument passed by Parliament last July and will therefore not be publishing MPs' addresses or any other details which could compromise security.

However, as a matter of legitimate public interest and concern, we intend to publish the following details about your expense claims under the Additional Costs Allowance. We would invite you to respond to the following points.

1. Your ACA claims show that since 2001 you have claimed £117,750 in second home allowances. In the same period your wife, Baroness Maddock, has claimed £128,154 in allowances from the House of Lords, including more than £60,000 for overnight stays. Do you think it is right and proper that the taxpayer should pay twice for overnight accommodation for the same couple?

Answer - It would be quite wrong for the taxpayer to pay twice for the same costs, so we have shared the costs, either by sharing the cost of rent, or by my wife using her allowance towards costs incurred (she normally claims only half of the Lords' overnight allowance)

2. Between 2005 and 2008 you claimed more than £6,000 for food. To what extent was this expense incurred "wholly, necessarily and exclusively" to enable you to carry out your parliamentary duties?

Answer - This represents meals taken and paid for in the House of Commons, mainly during evening sittings, and meals on trains (I travel 700 miles a week to get from my home to London).

3. Between 2005 and 2008 you claimed more than £5,000 for a cleaner, though you rarely submitted receipts for this. What assurances can you give us that the amount claimed was an accurate reflection of the costs you incurred?

Answer - I can given an absolute assurance that the amount claimed was the amount paid to the cleaner, and, since receipts have been required, I have always submitted them with the claim.

4. In 2006/7 you claimed £5,457 for a new kitchen from John Lewis. What assurances can you give that this did not "enhance" the property rather than simply maintaining it, as required by the Green Book?

Answer - The kitchen had had no work done on it since the 1960s, the cupboards were falling apart and the appliances, which were second-hand when acquired, were not energy efficient.

5. In 2007/8 you bought an air conditioner for £219. Do you believe this was an appropriate use of taxpayers' money? Does this not count as a "luxury item", of the kind which is banned by the Green Book?

Answer - The flat often becomes much too hot to sleep in during June and July, and my old air cooler broke down. I got a replacement from Argos.

6. Have you ever sold a property which you allocated as your second home? If so, did you pay capital gains tax?

Answer - Never. My second home has always been a rented flat.

7. Do you intend to pay back any of the money you have claimed on expenses?

Answer - If any claim is deemed to have been inappropriate by the external scrutiny, I will pay it back.

We do not presently see the justification for all of these claims under the rules or spirit of the rules set out in the Parliamentary Green Book. We would also be interested in establishing what steps you have taken to ensure that there are "no grounds for a suggestion of a misuse of public money" and that "value for money" has been obtained.

Answer - I have always rented my London accommodation, always sought value for money in any necessary expenditure, and have always sought to ensure that there were no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money.

Please could we receive your comments by 5pm today so that they can be given due weight in our inquiries and properly reflected in any article we decide to publish. Please could you also inform us if you do not wish to comment.

Many thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you shortly. I can be contacted on [contact details removed by Sir Alan Beith to protect the journalist's privacy].

Yours Sincerely,

Gordon Rayner

Chief Reporter