Nick Harvey: MPs should be able to profit from second homes'

by Stephen Tall on September 1, 2009

The south-west’s Western Morning News has the report:

A WESTCOUNTRY MP has told an official inquiry into the Parliamentary expenses scandal that politicians should be able to profit from their taxpayer-funded second homes. North Devon Lib-Dem MP Nick Harvey made the case in a six-page letter to the Committee on Standards in Public Life which has received more than 700 submissions.

Mr Harvey, who claimed up to £1,250 a month mortgage interest for his house in London, argued: “If making a capital gain is seen by some as a ‘crime’, then it is a ‘victimless crime’ because it does not add in any way to the taxpayer’s burden: it is simply a function of market movement.

“The MP has borne all the risk, which may prove painful for some in the current market, and maintained the property in marketable condition. The taxpayer could not be expected to bear any capital loss. The fair and equitable sharing of any capital gain is through the capital gain tax system.”

As the WMN revealed earlier this month, Mr Harvey also suggested that MPs outside London be paid a taxable and non-pensionable lump of £30,000, linked to inflation – based on the average cost of a hotel stay near Westminster and the number of nights MPs need to be in London. It would mean a massive cut in the allowances for MPs, leaving them with £17,000 after tax.

But, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher, went on: “In return for this huge reduction, and the MPs renouncing their tax privilege and moving onto the same basis as everyone else, the taxpayer would relinquish the recently acquired right to probe into MPs’ domestic expenditure.”

Nick’s position is at odds with party leader, Nick Clegg, who has decared his view that no MP should profit from a market increase in the value of their taxpayer-purchased second home. Nick’s full proposals for MPs’ expenses reform are available on his website here.

I have more sympathy with the views of Andrew George, also named by the Western Morning News as one of the MPs portraying themselves as a ‘victim’. Lib Dem Voice has already pointed out the gross unfairness of the Daily Telegraph’s reporting of Andrew’s expenses claims here. It is quite reasonable for those MPs who were trampled underfoot in the Telegraph’s stampede to ‘name and shame’ to set the record straight – Andrew George, Alan Reid and Jo Swinson (to name but three Lib Dems) are quite entitled to a moan given the shoddy standard of journalism to which they, and their families, were exposed.