Monday, November 11, 2013

Tory MP's claim for electricity to his stables is exposed by the Press: The same Press he wants to bring under state control

A millionaire Tory MP has admitted making an expenses claim for the electricity used by his horse riding business and a yard manager’s mobile home.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was a successful entrepreneur before becoming an MP in 2010, had the highest energy expenses of any politician, a newspaper report revealed.

He said the claim was a ‘mistake’ as he had not realised there was no separate energy bill for the horse riding business run from his sprawling 31-acre Warwickshire estate.

Apology: Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, 46, has apologised for claiming almost £6,000 in electricity bills to run a business from his second home
Apology: Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, 46, has apologised for claiming almost £6,000 in electricity bills to run a business from his second home

Mr Zahawi has been a vociferous supporter of statute-backed Press regulation. Last year, he was one of 42 Tory MPs to sign a letter calling for tight controls. 

    He agreed with Lord Justice Leveson that having the Press preside over its own regulator was akin to ‘having the industry mark its own homework’.

    energy graphi
    The Stratford-upon-Avon MP claimed nearly £6,000 for his energy bills.

    MPs are only allowed to claim expenses on domestic energy use at their second homes, not for costs linked to running a business.

    Mr Zahawi vowed to repay the money in full but said the figure had included bills for a previous year and was closer to £4,000.

    He said: ‘I have been looking into this matter further and can confirm that all claims for heating fuel relate purely to my second home. 

    However, I have made a mistake with my electricity claims.

    ‘Electricity for a mobile home located in the stable yard, and electricity for the stables themselves, was linked to my house.

    ‘Whilst a meter was installed in the stable yard, I have only been receiving one bill; it was wrong to assume I was receiving two and to have not checked this sooner.

    ‘I am mortified by this mistake and apologise unreservedly for it. 

     I will obviously be paying back  any money that was wrongly claimed immediately.’

    Mr Zahawi’s second home has a stable with room for at least 20 horses.

     He runs Oaklands Riding School and Livery Yard from the estate with his wife Lana.

    There is a mobile home on site for the yard manager, who is thought to pay Mr Zahawi £120 a month in rent to live there.

    The couple, who have teenage twin sons, also own a £5million home in Putney and three rental flats in London.

    Labour MP John Mann called for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, IPSA, to investigate the claims revealed by the Sunday Mirror.

    The Bassetlaw MP said: ‘If one of my constituents had done this they would have been expecting a knock on the door from the police. IPSA need to look at this and find out why it wasn’t spotted.’

    Jeff Kenner, a Labour councillor in Stratford-upon-Avon, said: ‘People will be stunned to find they have been paying for the running of Mr Zahawi’s stables.’

    He said Mr Zahawi’s position was ‘untenable’, particularly as many of his constituents were grappling with spiralling energy bills.

    Visitors to Mr Zahawi’s personal website were not sympathetic.

    Matt Williams posted: ‘If I over-claimed to a similar extent at my workplace, I would be sacked for gross misconduct.

    ‘Please could you explain why you deserve a different approach?’

    Another said: ‘Do you think it is fair and reasonable for MPs to claim such large amounts for energy for their second homes? Surely it should be capped at the average energy bill or say £1,000.’

    Peter Tennent wrote: ‘If you have enough money for two homes why do you need to claim money back to heat them? 

    Why don’t you get rid of one and use the money to heat the other? Then you won’t need to use taxpayers’ money.’

    Born in Baghdad to Kurdish  parents, Mr Zahawi is one of the country’s wealthiest MPs.

    He is a co-founder of research firm YouGov and has been tipped as a future minister.

    This month, Nick Clegg defended MPs claiming the cost of energy bills on their second homes. 

    He said expenses were there to help MPs with the cost of living and working in two different places.

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