Gerald Kaufman was one of the most egregious expenses cheats exposed by the Telegraph in 2009. Amongst the misuse of tax funds for his London gaff was £220 for a pair of crystal grapefruit bowls, items Kaufman claimed were ‘essential’ for him to perform his work as an MP.
No hypocritical encomiums here today I’m afraid. Kaufman and those like him did more to devalue and befoul our ancient Parliament than those for centuries past. Here’s a litany of his tax-theft;
The former environment minister was asked to attend a meeting with officials from the parliamentary fees office to discuss details of another claim relating to £28,834 of work on the kitchen and bathroom at his London flat. He told them that the work was necessary because he was “living in a slum”, though his second home, off Regent’s Park, is in one of the most fashionable areas of the capital. He was eventually reimbursed for £15,329.
On one occasion he asked a civil servant “why are you querying these expenses?” and on another threatened to make a complaint unless a dispute was settled by noon on the day in question. In one document, an official in the fees office noted that invoices Sir Gerald had submitted took him to “within 6p” of his annual limit. He also claimed £1,262 for a gas bill that was £1,055 in credit.
Between 2001 and 2008 the Manchester Gorton MP, one of the Labour party’s longest-serving members, claimed a total of £115,109 in additional costs allowances on his London flat, which he owns outright. In June 2006, he submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen Beovision 40in LCD television. The maximum amount MPs are allowed to claim for TVs is £750.
On July 7, 2006 the fees office wrote to Sir Gerald to say: “I regret to inform you that this item falls within the not allowable category of luxurious furnishings, and as such has been rejected.” He was paid £750. In March 2007 Sir Gerald submitted a claim for £1,461.83 for a “second-hand rug replacing 24-year-old carpet”, with an additional £389.91 for “customs duty on rug”, which was paid. The receipt showed that Sir Gerald bought the rug from the Showplace Antique Centre on West 25th Street in Manhattan for $2,750. The Green Book strictly forbids “antique, luxury or premium grade” furnishings. Later that year, on Dec 29, Sir Gerald, who was knighted in 2004, submitted an invoice from ABC Carpets in Harrods for £598, which was also paid.
A note of a telephone conversation between Sir Gerald, 78, and an official in the fees office, states that his reasons for claiming £28,834 for home improvements between 2005 and 2007 were: “Old flat, facilities out of date, decrepit, health reasons, update, living in slum.” Sir Gerald added that he had “not carried out any repairs/maintenance for 32 years”.Sir Gerald was also challenged over regular claims for “odd jobs” which he submitted without receipts at a rate of £245 every month — £5 below the then limit for unreceipted expenses. He replied: “Why are you querying these expenses?” On May 18, a senior official in the fees office noted details of another conversation about the kitchen and bathroom, saying: “MP believes that I have seen a detailed breakdown of the £12,416.51 claim he has submitted [for that financial year]… MP is becoming agitated and will be making an official complaint against me, if this matter is not resolved by 12 noon today.” When detailed invoices were submitted, they included £575 for undertile heating in the shower room and £2,695 for Bosch and Miele kitchen appliances. Sir Gerald was asked to attend a meeting with officials on the matter and the fees office eventually agreed to pay him £15,329 of the £28,834. Sir Gerald accepted, saying that he wanted to “draw a line under the issue”.
In June last year Sir Gerald submitted a £1,262 claim for his gas bill, covering the period March 2006 to May 2008. The fees office pointed out that his gas account was £1,055.60 in credit, and only agreed to pay £122.46. A note in the file on July 10, 2008 quotes Sir Gerald as saying: “I received a letter from [official] saying not pay as is credit. I paid £1,252 THIS year so want reimbursing!!!”
The fees office wrote to him on July 14 to say: “You might wish to ask British Gas to repay you the credit.”
Sir Gerald’s claims between 2004 and June 2008 also included £19,200 for food — close to the maximum — and £4,692 for cleaning.
Last night Sir Gerald offered to repay the money for the rug and admitted that his claim for the £8,000 television was “a bit daft”. He said that his flat had been in need of complete refurbishment because he had “neglected” it over the years and he had overclaimed for the gas bill because he “misunderstood” the invoice. He said that his odd jobs bill was actually more than £245 a month, so he had claimed close to the limit. His food claim was “appropriate” because his job meant he often had to “spend a lot of money” eating out, he added.
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