Andy McDonald apologises after breaking expenses rules

Andy McDonald apologises after breaking expenses rules

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A member of Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet has apologised after he broke expenses rules by failing to pass on money obtained from subletting his taxpayer-funded office.

Andy McDonald, the shadow secretary for employment rights, was forced to pay the funds back to parliament’s spending watchdog.

MPs are allowed to rent out part of their local constituency offices.

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But they have to hand the income over to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which was set up in the wake of the expenses scandal a decade ago.

The missing payments were uncovered only after IPSA carried out an inquiry into the subletting of MPs’ offices.

Under the rules, MPs are also required to charge an appropriate fee for renting out the space.

Dozens of MPs are thought to sublet their local offices, often to councillors from the same political party.

Details released by IPSA under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show Mr McDonald had let out part of his office to the local Middlesbrough Labour Group.

IPSA said that the rent charged had been £250 a year and that Mr McDonald had repaid £750.

But a spokesman for Mr McDonald said the real figure repaid had been £500, with the final years’ rent simply handed over at the same time.

A spokesman for Mr McDonald said: ”As soon as Andy became aware, he reimbursed the money and now ensures all repayments are made on time. He apologises for the error.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “The public rightly expect all MPs to follow the rules to the letter and IPSA is right to ensure payments are made on time.”

The FOI also shows other Labour MPs also had to repay money for their sublet office.

They include Jack Dromey, the shadow minister for pensions, who was subletting his office to his local Labour party at a cost of £650 a year, who repaid £1,300, according to IPSA.

Again Labour sources said the real amount repaid was £650, with a second payment made at the same time.

Ian Mearns, the Labour MP for Gateshead, also repaid £1,200 after charging rent of £120 a month. The name of his tenant was withheld by IPSA.

Last night Mr Mearns said there had been no deliberate attempt to defraud IPSA.

He added: “I had no knowledge there was a problem of this nature and I think it has been dealt with in a routine way by my office management staff.”

The IPSA review looked into the subletting arrangements of 33 MPs, less than one in twenty, suggesting the problem could be much more widespread.

The watchdog conceded that there had been “little oversight” of the system.

All of Westminster’s 650 MPs have now been reminded of their duty to declare any revenue from subletting their offices.

An IPSA spokesman said: “Subletting is within the rules and can be beneficial when it enables MPs to have sufficient office space to serve their constituents, whilst also returning some funds to taxpayers.”

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