Page last updated at 22:31 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 23:31 UK

Osborne facing expenses inquiry

George Osborne
Mr Osborne is one of 90 Tory MPs to have repaid money

Shadow chancellor George Osborne is facing an inquiry by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner into aspects of his expenses claims.

The move came after a complaint by his constituency's Labour Party chairman.

The watchdog's probe relates to Mr Osborne's second home designation between 2001 and 2003 and mortgage claims he made after 2003.

A spokesman for Mr Osborne said the complaint was "political" and his expenses claims were above-board.

The Commissioner John Lyon launched his investigation in response to a complaint by Laurie Burton, the chairman of the local Labour Party in Mr Osborne's Tatton constituency.

Mr Burton alleges that, between 2001 and 2003, Mr Osborne wrongly identified his main home for the purposes of claiming a second home allowance.

He also alleges that, from 2003, Mr Osborne claimed for mortgage payments "that were not necessarily incurred".

He told the BBC that he believed Mr Osborne had "manipulated the rules to his own advantage" and denied his complaint was politically motivated.

"I share the outrage and anger of the great majority of people in this country, of all political persuasions, who have seen what has gone on in Parliament, who don't like what they see and like even less the fact that some MPs just refuse to accept what they have done and refuse to pay any money back."

'No impropriety'

A spokesman for Mr Osborne explained that he had always made it clear that his Cheshire property was his second home since he was first elected in 2001.

However, he said the MP had told the Commons authorities in 2001 that he had just increased his interest only mortgage on his London home to cover the cost of purchasing his Cheshire property - and was advised to claim against that until he could change the arrangements without incurring penalty fees.

There has been absolutely no impropriety and any suggestion of such is wrong
Spokesman for George Osborne

This Mr Osborne did in 2003, securing a mortgage against the Cheshire property.

Later that year, when the Commons asked MPs to explicitly state what their main and second homes were, Mr Osborne designated the Cheshire property as his second home.

"George Osborne has never switched designation for personal advantage," his spokesman said.

"There has been absolutely no impropriety and any suggestion of such is wrong."

He added that Mr Osborne was "relaxed" about the probe as he had always been "open" about his expenses.

Mr Lyon has made it clear he will not be looking into claims made by the Daily Telegraph that Mr Osborne avoided capital gains tax on the sale of his London home in 2006 - allegations Mr Osborne denies.

Repayments

Mr Osborne is among more than 90 Tory MPs who have agreed to repay money since the expenses scandal erupted, returning £1,195.49 to the Commons authorities.

He repaid the £440 cost of a late-night taxi trip between his constituency and London in 2005, £654 for a wrongly calculated insurance bill and £99 for an administrative error on a mortgage claim.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner is already investigating two Tory MPs - Brian Binley and Anne Main - over aspects of their expenses, as well as ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and ex-Home Office minister Tony McNulty.

The amount of money paid back by MPs to the Commons authorities since April has risen to £642,728, a government minister disclosed on Thursday.

Barbara Keeley, deputy leader of the House of Commons, said 264 MPs had repaid money, averaging £2,434 each.

However, she stressed the figure was not solely made up of expenses-related payments and also included other items such as refunds to suppliers.



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