Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting BWT to 80360 or you can email us »
Tory MP: My expenses ordeal is over
A Conservative MP has said he is pleased after his legal wrangle with the parliamentary expenses watchdog was resolved.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) had launched legal action to recover £54,000 from Stewart Jackson, who claimed taxpayer cash to pay mortgage interest on a property in his constituency.
Mr Jackson was one of 29 MPs told to hand over a total of almost £500,000 to Ipsa to cover a proportion of the increased value of properties funded by their expenses.
He accused Ipsa of over-estimating the capital gain on his family home in his Peterborough constituency and then rushing into ''heavy-handed and disproportionate'' litigation to recover the sum. The other MPs involved agreed to pay the sums demanded in full.
The watchdog moved to ban the use of Commons expenses to pay mortgage interest in May 2010, in the wake of public fury over ''flipping'' and other abuses.
However, transitional arrangements were put in place permitting MPs elected before 2010 to keep claiming the money up to August 2012 - as long as they agreed to return any potential capital gain.
Some MPs, including Mr Jackson, were asked to repay more than they had received because the value of their property was calculated to have risen by more than the cost of the interest payments.
Mr Jackson refused to agree a repayment plan as he rejected the valuation placed on his property.
He has said in a statement that he was pleased to announce that a 16-month "ordeal" involving Ipsa was over.
"Ipsa claimed in October 2012 that I owed the taxpayer £54,000, as a result of an alleged notional capital gain in respect of my family home in Peterborough, in which I live and have not sold, nor made any profit from, arising out of property valuations undertaken in 2010 and 2012 under the parliamentary expenses scheme."
He said he felt the valuations he submitted to Ipsa in good faith had errors or were negligently made by the surveyor concerned, and submitted alternative valuations, asking for them to be taken into account, and making an offer to pay an appropriate sum.
However, Ipsa issued proceedings in the High Court for the recovery of the £54,000, but the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) had confirmed they had issued an order against the original valuer as he had breached their professional rules and regulations.
"On Friday 21st February 2014, a Tomlin Order was sealed in the High Court, the result of which is that Ipsa's case against me has been stayed.
"I am not required to pay any monies back to the taxpayer."
Ipsa said that when it stopped MPs claiming for their mortgages, Mr Jackson commissioned and provided two valuations from RICS registered valuers, as it requested, which showed that the property had risen in value and the taxpayer was due £54,000.
A statement added: "Only at this point did Mr Jackson take the view the valuations he provided were fundamentally flawed.
"He produced no acceptable evidence to support this and refused to pay the taxpayer back, in contravention of the rules.
"And so in looking after the taxpayers' interest - we were left with no option but to seek legal advice."
A final, independently appointed surveyor who valued the property at Mr Jackson's expense judged that there h ad been no rise in the property value between 2010 and 2012, and Ipsa was happy to accept the surveyor's assessment.
"If Mr Jackson had submitted accurate valuations in the first instance, or produced suitable evidence in the months of discussion about this, we would not have had to escalate this issue or seek legal support to try and conclude the matter.
"Having ended the practice of MPs claiming mortgage repayments from the taxpayer - this situation can never arise again."