I fully back David Cameron’s announcement of a tough new approach on Allowances. We are right to be apologising to the public. I am a supporter of reform of MPs’ Allowances and have spoken in the House of Commons about this in the past. I was involved in making the decision to start publishing information on Allowances and I support independent external audit and increased transparency. Last year I backed David when he asked us to volunteer much greater information and I already have a link to the currently published information under “Oliver” on my web-site, http://www.oliverhealdmp.com.
I believe the current system needs a complete overhaul by an outside body and I support the wide-ranging review now being undertaken by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
I will be following the new Cameron Rules and putting up my next claim for Additional Costs Allowance on line. I am also giving the new Cameron Review Body all the old claim forms and receipts, which the House authorities have sent me. The Review Body will check to see if they think any of my claims are wrong or unethical and whether I should pay back anything. I will follow their ruling.
The difficulty in publishing the bundles of documents as they stand is that they contain numerous pieces of genuinely private information such as staff addresses, bank details and the like. These documents have not been fully “redacted”, as they will be for publication. The House authorities are working hard on this and are very aware of the need to publish the details for all MPs as soon as possible. They have brought the date forward from mid-July and now hope to be ready in June.
I claim the allowance to pay for accommodation in London when I am there for Parliamentary work. I believe this is necessary. My main home has been and is in Royston 48 miles from London. The House of Commons now usually sits to at least 10.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays; on Wednesdays to at least 7.30pm and to at least 6.30pm on Thursdays. The House may sit later on Treasury business or with Government support. I am on a number of Parliamentary Committees and have morning meetings at 9am. The 11.15pm train from London arrives in Royston after midnight and it would be necessary to take a train before 8am the next morning. Although it might have been possible to commute on a short term basis, I believe this would not have been sustainable over my 17 years in Parliament.
From 1992 to 2001 I rented a room in London. In 2001 I bought a studio flat in Lambeth and in 2003 I moved to a 2 bed flat in Lambeth. I paid Capital Gains’ Tax on the profit of £15,000 at 40 per cent. I claim Allowance for mortgage interest (of course, I paid the deposit and capital repayments) and for household costs and necessary repairs. I have never had a flat screen TV. I have never “flipped” my main home designation.
I claim the Office Costs Allowance to pay for equipment and materials for constituency casework.
I claim Mileage Allowance for my constituency work. The North East Herts constituency is one of the largest in the Home Counties and by far the largest in Hertfordshire at 181 square miles.