Times backs Jeremy Browne’s expenses appeal

by Stephen Tall on December 18, 2009

As LDV reported yesterday, Lib Dem MP for ultra-marginal Taunton is appealing against Sir Thomas Legg’s request for repayment of almost £18,000 in expenses which Sir Thomas says were against the rules.

Today’s Times carries a leader column backing Jeremy’s appeal – here’s an excerpt:

Take Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrat and the first MP to confirm that he would appeal. Upon entering Parliament, Mr Browne removed equity from a London home that he owned before he was elected and used it to buy a property in his constituency. He then claimed against his allowance for the (now larger) mortgage on the London home. Sir Thomas has concluded that he should not have, and wants him to pay back nearly £18,000.

This is arbitrary justice. If Mr Browne had sold his London flat and bought another one, he would have been able to charge the full mortgage to his allowance. It is none of Sir Thomas’s business what the MP did with equity on his flat that was earned when he was not an MP.

Worse, though, it is retrospective justice. Mr Browne was not simply correct in principle to claim the money. He was actually given it. His allowance claim was submitted and it was accepted. To ask for the money back now is bizarre.

Mr Browne should win his appeal. Whether it will be politically advantageous for him if he does so, is another question altogether.