James Purnell accused of abusing expenses rules

An ironic twist in the latest MP expenses story – this time it is James Purnell, the minister in charge of ensuring that the rest of us don’t claim too much in expenses (and the man with a thing about fakery), who is accused of claiming back more in rental costs than he actually paid out.

The Sunday Express writes:

CABINET Minister James Purnell was under pressure last night to explain why he claimed £10,000 more in Parliamentary expenses than he paid in rent for his London flat.

The Welfare and Pensions Secretary, tipped as a future leader of the Labour Party, pocketed £10,143 more than the rent he was being charged on his second home in London.

A Sunday Express investigation has revealed that Mr Purnell submitted rent claims of up to £2,020 each month – yet bank records prove that he paid only £910 every month…

On 17 of the 22 months he lived at the flat, he always claimed hundreds of pounds more than the rent he was actually paying. Records for the other months are missing…

A friend of Mr Purnell told the Sunday Express that [his then partner] Miss Walker often travelled abroad for her work and Mr Purnell would reimburse her in cash for a share of the rent and then claim that sum back from the taxpayer…

Mr Purnell’s explanation of his financial arrangements were branded “bizarre” by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has campaigned for the rules to be tightened on MPs’ expenses, and “unbelievably complicated” by Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable.

And Martin Bell, the former MP and anti-corruption campaigner, called on the Commons sleaze watchdog to look into the rent claims.

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