18:40 Monday 3rd March 2014
BBC Look East West
[A]MELIA REYNOLDS: The MP for Peterborough has won his legal battle with the Parliamentary expenses watchdog. Stewart Jackson was threatened with court action after he refused to repay more than £50,000. But he’s now been told it was all a mistake, and he actually owes nothing. A short while ago I spoke to our political correspondent Andrew Sinclair about the significance of the case.
ANDREW SINCLAIR: Well this has been a rather bitter row between Mr Jackson and the expenses watchdog IPSA, and he says it’s been quite damaging to his reputation. It all goes back to the last election when the rules were tightened up on second homes, and MPs who were going to lose that perk were told they could have a bit longer to keep claiming for their second home, but if the home went up in value, they’d have to pay back any difference. Now eventually seventy MPs were sent bills because their homes had gone up in value. All of them paid them except Mr Jackson, who said there’s no way my home in Peterborough has gone up by £75,000 in two years. IPSA wanted £55,000 of that. He refused. They took him to court.
AMELIA REYNOLDS: But it turns out he was right all along.
ANDREW SINCLAIR: Yes, it seems that the surveyor who did the original valuation had got his figures wrong, and IPSA have now accepted in court that Mr Jackson owes them nothing. He’s very pleased about it, but also very angry with IPSA, who he says turned down all offers of negotiation and mediation, and ran up legal bills of £25,000 which the taxpayer will end up funding. He says that this was legal overkill; he says it was unnecessary and totally unjustified.
AMELIA REYNOLDS: This really isn’t going to help relations between MPs and IPSA, is it?
ANDREW SINCLAIR: No. A number of MPs have fallen out with IPSA, thinking it’s very heavy handed indeed. The Mid-Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries has stopped claiming expenses altogether because she’s so angry. IPSA are unrepentant. They say look, it’s our job to keep a close eye on MPs expenses, and we’ll keep doing so.
AMELIA REYNOLDS: Thanks Andrew.