POLITICS

Stewart Jackson, Conservative MP, Relieved That Expenses Ordeal Is Over

01/03/2014 19:18 GMT | Updated 01/03/2014 19:59 GMT
Stewart Jackson

A Conservative MP Said that his 16-month "ordeal" involving the parliamentary expenses watchdog was over.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority 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.

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.

Jackson refused to agree a repayment plan as he rejected the valuation placed on his property.

He said in a statement today: "I am pleased to announce that a 16-month ordeal involving the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is 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.

"In response to demands for repayment, I challenged the application of the scheme and advised Ipsa that I felt the valuations submitted to them by me in good faith were made based on errors or were negligently made by the surveyor concerned. I submitted alternative valuations and asked for them to be taken into account, making an offer to pay an appropriate sum. This was rejected by Ipsa.

"Instead they issued proceedings in the High Court against me in May 2013 for the recovery of the £54,000, which generated widespread and sometimes negative media coverage and some reputational damage for me.

"Prior to this, I suggested that we refer the dispute to mediation and that a further expert valuation report be produced by me for them to apply the scheme to. All proposals were rejected by Ipsa.

"I contested the valuations submitted because I believed them to be inaccurate and flawed; and at my own expense prepared three further expert valuations to demonstrate my point.

"Because of the errors in the original valuations, I invoked the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) complaints process against the original valuer; and RICS subsequently advised me in January 2014 that they had issued a Consent Order against this surveyor 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."

He added that he was pleased that the matter had been resolved.

A spokesman for Ipsa said: "This is still going through the legal process. It is not something upon which we can comment until it has reached a conclusion."