That’s what they meant when they said he ‘got TV’.
James Gray is the Tory MP for North Wiltshire. Readers may remember his crowning career achievement of cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with a married woman.
Now a Guido investigation can reveal that Gray double claims on the rent for his constituency office and constituency accommodation, separately charging the taxpayer thousands of pounds for each despite them being at the same address.
Gray claims £4,800-a-year in expenses for his constituency office rent. His constituency office address listed on the official parliament website, shown above, is that of his local Conservative association. Guido phoned the number given, and indeed the person who answered was sitting in the Tory association office. Yet IPSA records show Gray is claiming constituency office rent expenses for a separate address.
Guido’s investigation has discovered that Gray separately claims both constituency office and accommodation rent expenses for the same Wiltshire address: Ganbrook Farm. He claims a further £13,474-a-year for his accommodation, also charging the taxpayer up to £35,000-a-year to employ his new wife Philippa as his diary secretary on the farm they live in together. Yet if you call his listed constituency office number to book an appointment, the phone rings in a building miles away. Gray therefore appears to be doubling up on his rent expenses for his home and office, a ruse last tried by Denis MacShane.
IPSA rental arrangement files show that the landlord of the property is the “Andrews Settlement”. Guido has learned that the Andrews Settlement is the trust for the Neston Park estate, a large local estate controlled by Sir James Henry Fleetwood Fuller, 4th Baronet. Gray has confirmed that Fuller is the recipient of both his office and accommodation expenses, for the same farm. Electoral Commission data reveals that Fuller and his family have donated £1,250 to Gray through his association, and over £20,000 more to the Conservative Party.
Despite the photo evidence, Gray says that his constituency office and accommodation are “entirely separate” properties with separate leases, merely “adjacent” to each other on the same farm. He insists the arrangement is “open, declared… wholly above board [and] absolutely legitimate and honest”. Despite the publicly-listed address and telephone number for his constituency office being the local Tory association, Gray claims they merely “field very occasional calls and forward the tiny amount of post which arrives there”. However you cannot write to him at his real constituency office – for which we pay – because IPSA told us, it is kept private for the “protection of the MP’s security”.
Gray rather amusingly warned Guido: “you might want to be very cautious how you phrase your story.”
Despite party rules stating that he is not meant to be overtly campaigning, Tim Yeo is fighting hard for his political survival in Suffolk. The trougher even sent members Christmas cards for the first time in a decade and has become uncharacteristically active in his previously neglected seat. Neighbouring MP Dan Poulter is helping to boost support locally, “they’re golf buddies” notes another MP dryly.
If Yeo should win the crunch vote, a legal challenge has been prepared by local Tories desperate to be rid of him. In 1983 Yeo comfortably survived an attempt to oust him as the candidate after a company he chaired was investigated by the London Stock Exchange over a share scandal, this time it might be time to sell shares in Tim Yeo. Local party elders suggest the fall out, division, and defections will be greater if the great greedy green survives the vote.
IPSA is so complicated that it requires expensive training just to work out how to use it. ‘MP staff secretaries, office managers and assistants’ are being sent on a course to work out how the hell to work the expenses system at a cost of nearly £500 per head. The training programme teaches staffers how to ‘create spreadsheet records easily transferable for use within the IPSA system.’ And who is picking up the £455 plus VAT bill?
“Please note that all fees associated with attending these training courses, can be reclaimed under IPSA, as they fall under their classification of staff training.”
More than 200 government car journeys were undertaken last year without a Minister in the car. After George Osborne pledged this morning to make government smaller and leaner, Guido suggests the Chancellor has a look at the government car data for 2012/13 that was quietly published today. In 2012 the government car pool was broken up and a vehicle given to each department, yet a small pool was kept for ‘top up journeys’. Hidden within these additional rides is some very poor planning, or very lazy Ministers, who are using this service to ferry their red-boxes unaccompanied around the country. And we’re paying for the pleasure.
The Deputy Prime Minister is amongst the worst offenders, using empty cars to ferry his boxes 52 times. Hague relied on this trick 41 times and Gove 23. While the worst offender was former Trade Minister Lord Marland, who clocked up a bizarre 61 extra journeys on our tab for his boxes, the LibDems seem to have a particular penchant for this perk. David Laws managed it 21 times, Sarah Teather 14 and Danny Alexander 22 times. That is one cut the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has not managed to find.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond is clearly struggling with the 5.7 mile commute from his constituency in Wandsworth to his desk in Westminster; he has got his box sent over 19 times on top of the 138 ‘top up’ journeys he took himself. By comparison Cabinet Ministers such as Osborne, Maude, Greening, Clarke, Shapps and Hunt managed to organise their departmental business with zero such trips. No costs for these journeys were published.
Junior minister and topless enthusiast Dr Dan Poulter has organised a letter of support for the re-selection of his troughing neighbour. Apparently Tim Yeo “has a lot of fuel left in the tank” and “remains very active.” On the golf course perhaps…
On the bright-side for Tim, Poulter’s letter is a marked improvement on the effort by Crispin Blunt, who himself survived such a deselection bid. The former minister said Yeo was an “elder statesmen” and his constituents need someone who knows “how to get around the system”. If Blunt actually spoke to anyone in the seat, he would understand that was the problem…
Establishment cronyism at its most cynical in tonight’s New Year honours. The party leaders have rewarded expenses scandal hit MPs, spinners, aides, party donors and lobbyists, also buttering up potential candidates and local party association bosses. Their cronyism in full:
- Sir Alan Parker – shadowy CEO of lobbying firm Brunswick. Gordon Brown is godfather to his son, he is a Labour donor. Has also holidayed with Cameron.
- Karren Brady CBE – Cameron adviser on fiscal matters who has previously been arrested twice on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. In the running for a Tory seat.
- Sir Kevin “Morally” Barron – Labour MP and head of the troughers’ union, the standards committee that lets off money-grabbing MPs. Watch Guido’s ding dong with him here.
- Sir Peter Luff – Tory MP who bought three loo seats, three food mixers, two microwaves and ten sets of bed linen for his country house. Rent-swapper extraordinaire.
- Marion Dowdings OBE and Simon Mort OBE – deputy chair of Cameron’s local party and chair of its supper club, and president of the Oxford West Conservatives, respectively. See what Dave did there.
- Sir Keir Starmer – New Miliband adviser currently being lined up for a Labour seat. Well it can hardly be for his work at the Crown Prosecution Service, can it.
- Peter Emmerson Jones OBE – has given tens of thousands of pounds to Osborne’s local party.
- Lady Patricia Hobson OBE – another big money Tory donor.
- Emma Pidding CBE – chairman of the National Conservative Convention. C’mon.
This is why people hate politics.
IPSA have confirmed their recommendation to whack up MPs’ pay to £74,000. Their reforms in full:
- A one-off uplift in salary to £74,000 in 2015, an increase of 9.26%, to address the historic shortfall. Thereafter, MPs’ pay will be linked to average earnings – if they go up, so will MPs’.
Zac Goldsmith’s bill proposing to allow constituents to recall corrupt MPs passed its first reading by 127 votes to 17 this afternoon. Worth looking at a few of the names who voted against.
There is Labour’s Frank Dobson, who lives in £1 million council flat despite earning three times the average wage.[…]
Bercow was spinning hard for jailed MPs caught fiddling their expenses during his speech to the Hansard Society last night.
“The House appeared to be little more than a cross between a rubber stamp and a talking shop which had taken to collective activity such as the imaginative interpretation of what might be a legitimate expense claim as much as an odd form of displacement activity as out of any shared sense of malice or corruption.”
Jim Devine must have submitted claims for cleaning, maintenance and printing work that the judge said were “entirely bogus”, pleading guilty to dishonestly claiming £8,385, and been jailed for 16 months because he was bored.[…]