Page last updated at 20:03 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Minister Sion Simon to repay second home expenses

Sion Simon
Mr Simon says he found out about changes to rules from a newspaper

Junior culture minister Sion Simon has promised to repay thousands of pounds in expenses and apologised after renting a second home from his sister.

The total amount has not been confirmed but is thought to run to about £20,000.

Mr Simon rented the London flat from 2003 to 2007, but is only repaying part of the cost as MPs were not barred from renting from their families until 2006.

He issued a statement to his local paper, the Birmingham Post, ahead of a Daily Telegraph article on Friday.

He said the Commons authorities had cleared the arrangement but in April 2006 a new rule prohibited MPs from renting from family members.

'Good faith'

He added he only learned that rule had been introduced when the Daily Telegraph contacted him on Thursday.

"Until today, I had no notion that the rules had changed in this way. I would have expected that in the case of a rule change which specifically affected me like this I would have been notified," he said.

Now that I have been made aware of the April 06 rule change, I accept full responsibility and apologise unreservedly
Sion Simon

The Birmingham Erdington MP said he intended to repay the £1,000-a-month rent claimed between April 2006 and December 2007, when he moved out of the flat.

He said: "At all times I have acted wholly transparently and in good faith. Nevertheless, now that I have been made aware of the April 06 rule change, I accept full responsibility and apologise unreservedly."

Mr Simon said he now planned to agree with the Commons authorities a schedule for repayment.

After the expenses scandal broke in May, Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked former civil servant Sir Thomas Legg to carrying out an audit of all MPs' past claims - under the second homes allowance.

The process has been seen as controversial because Sir Thomas asked many MPs to repay claims approved under the old rules, because he felt they claimed too much.

He has imposed his own retrospective limits on claims for gardening and cleaning, and asked MPs to repay the difference.

A total of 80 MPs have now confirmed they want to challenge his request that they repay money claimed on expenses dating back five years.



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