Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Conservative MP to repay 9,500

Jeremy Hunt
Mr Hunt said he fully accepted the committee's findings

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is to repay more than £9,500 after he was found to have breached expenses rules.

The Standards and Privileges Committee criticised an arrangement under which the MP's agent stayed rent-free in his taxpayer subsidised home.

But it concluded that neither the MP nor his local party had benefited financially from the situation.

If the MP "promptly" repaid half of his claims on the home over the period, it said he would face no further action.

'Misinterpretation'

Mr Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, had previously apologised over the matter, saying the situation had arisen due to a "misinterpretation" of the rules, and agreed to repay £9,558.50.

The committee, which has the power to punish MPs found to have broken Commons rules, said it took the apology into account when considering what action should follow.

The matter was referred to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, which investigates conduct allegations against MPs, by Mr Hunt's Liberal Democrat opponent at the next election Mike Simpson.

Mr Hunt's agent stayed rent free in his constituency property, designated as his second home, three nights a week between November 2005 and June 2007.

Over this period, the MP claimed £19,117 in public money towards the property.

I am grateful that he has ruled that neither I nor the local Conservative Party received any financial benefit from this misinterpretation of the rules
Jeremy Hunt

In its report, the committee agreed that Mr Hunt had made "a wrong judgement" in not subtracting the agent's living costs from his total claim and the agent had enjoyed a "personal benefit".

But it rejected the "central allegation" against the MP, concluding that public money had not been "diverted" to his local party nor did Mr Hunt derive any financial benefit himself.

In a statement, Mr Hunt said he "fully accepted" the findings.

"I am grateful that he has ruled that neither I nor the local Conservative Party received any financial benefit from this misinterpretation of the rules," he said.

"As he noted, I have already apologised unreservedly and have offered to pay back half of the costs I claimed for this property over the period for which it was also used by my constituency agent."

Mr Hunt has already repaid £1,996 after he mistakenly claimed for utility bills and other items in the property when it was designated as his main home between May and October 2005.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner is currently investigating a number of MPs over complaints about their use of expenses. Several MPs, including former ministers, have been asked to either repay money or apologise to Parliament in recent months.



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