Sir Thomas Legg’s report produced on 4th February 2010 highlighted the way expenses have been incorrectly claimed and paid to MPs, and eight Brit-Asian MPs are part of the scandal.
Asian MP's must pay back £11,503.84
British MPs have been ordered to repay £1.1m of inappropriate expenses claims back to the taxpayer. Sir Thomas Legg’s commission has now ruled that MPs must repay amounts from their second home expenses claims.
Sir Thomas Legg’s report into MPs’ spending over five years, concluded that there was a “culture of deference” which resulted in MPs’ being paid expenses by officials regardless of the evidence they presented and in some cases not meeting the rules of the system.
Within the amount owed we can confirm that Asian MPs must pay back £11,503.84 of the overall total. If public faith regarding British politics was not already at rock bottom then this was yet another huge blow which has not done it any favours.
To some it is perhaps not surprising to see that British Asian MPs are amongst those named and shamed on the basis that corruption is a trait often encountered in the South Asian world of politics. But it is certainly is a sad state of affairs to see such activity of deceit making its way into UK politics.
British Asian politicians involved in this fraud are by no means setting a good example for young British Asians aspiring to be politicians in the future.
In addition to the payments, the MPs await further news from the Crown Prosecution Service to conclude if they will be criminally charged or not for their gross misconduct.
Below is a list of Asian MPs that are having to repay expenses together with the amounts they owe to the public purse. All figures are taken from those released on 4 February 2010.
Marsha Singh – Bradford West, Lab. £5,026.84
Mr Singh over claimed £4,505.44 in mortgage interest between 2004 and 2009. The £521.40 claim was for phone bills that he had included in the wrong category.
In reaction to the false claims, he said, “I have not had the chance to go through every single detail so I am not sure it is correct.”
He added, “I am, however, happy to pay it. No claims were nefarious, it was mortgage interest. The £500 phone bill should have been put through office cost expenses. I will repay everything I owe.”
Parmjit Dhanda – Gloucester, Lab. £2,208.28
Parmjit Singh Dhanda is a Labour MP serving the constituency of Gloucester since 2001 following the retirement of Tess Kingham. Born in September 1971, in London, Parmjit has held a number of positions within parliament including, Assistant Government Whip and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children. Parmjit in 2007, voted in favour of keeping MPs’ expenses secret when he voted for a Private Member’s Bill.
Dhanda said regarding his expense claims, “My expenses are based on some clear principles. I have never ‘flipped’ main and second homes, my main home has always been, and will always be in Gloucester, with my constituents – a principle I maintained even when I was a minister.”
“I have never played the property market, or avoided taxes – the flat in London is the only property I own, other than our family home in Gloucester. I am informed that since the last general election I have been the second cheapest MP in the county even though I represent the 16th largest electorate in the nation.”
Keith Vaz – Leicester East, Lab. £1,514.00
Out of all the Asian MP’s paying back their expenses, Keith Vaz is a name that most British Asian people know, especially serving Leicester East, a highly populated Asian area. He has been an MP for Leicester East since 1987, and has been the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee since July 2007. But he is no different to the rest under these circumstances and owes over a £1000 to the public purse.
The Former Europe Minister, Vaz, has also changed the designation of his second home so that he can be eligible to claim maximum allowances, this process is also know as ‘flipping.’ His main home that he shares with his family is located just a short tube ride away from Parliament but he had claimed for a flat in Westminster instead between 2004 to 2007.
Shahid Malik – Dewsbury, Lab. £1,340.56
Shahid Malik was ordered to stand down as Junior justice minister last year by Gordon brown while investigations took place into claims that his expenses claims had broke the ministerial code. The main reason for this was due to Malik using his London based flat as his second home which in return allowed him to claim in excess of £60,000 over a three year period.
Malik used a three bed house in his Dewsbury constituency as his main home which he was renting for £100 a week. He has insisted throughout that he was “as straight as they come” and that he had spent the same as every other MP in the country. Now that Sir Thomas Legg’s commission has ordered him to pay £1,340.56, will he still insist he is “as straight as they come?”
Khalid Mahmood – Birmingham Perry Barr,Lab. £544.21
In May 2009 it was revealed that Mr Mahmood had spent nine nights at a top London hotel, with his former girlfriend Elaina Cohen, which cost the taxpayer a bill of £1,350. He defended his actions by stating “It was close to the tube station and it was easy to get to parliament.”
He added, “You tell me how many hotels there are in London where you can get £175 rate and which are close to the Tube station? I tried looking for other places and that was the best I could get. Because I regularly stay there I get a special deal and that is a bloody good rate.”
This hotel describes it self as having “luxuriously designed spacious rooms.” Was there any real need for Mr Mahmood to stay in a luxurious room? Or could he have done what his colleague David Drew did and stayed in the Premier Inn for a fraction of the price at only £99 a night?
Ashok Kumar – Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland,Lab. £450
Ashok Kumar became an MP in 1991. The backbencher had in the past ‘flipped’ his second home designation to take advantage of the loop hole which would then allow him to pay the mortgage interest on a new property using taxpayers money for expenses .
Regarding his expenses, Ashok said, “Everyone who has contacted me have been given the opportunity today to speak to me on a one-to-one basis. It means that I am able to listen properly to their complaints and I am able to tell them my thoughts. I felt that rather then do this through the media, I should talk to my constituents personally to ally their fears.”
Mohammad Sarwar – Glasgow Central, Lab. £245.95
Mohammad Sarwar the MP for Glasgow Central entered Parliament on 1 May 1997. He has a estimated fortune of £16 million and this is not the first scandal he has been involved with.
Mr Sarwar has claimed a total of £86,497 in second homes allowance (Additional Costs Allowance) since 2004 and a total of £638,640 in other expenses, including staff and office costs.
In 1997, he was suspended from the Labour Party and then later acquitted, over allegations of bribing political opponents, and stood trial for fraud.
Mohammad was paid a total of £123.83 twice for telephone bills in 2005-06. He was also paid £122.12 in February 2005 for mobile phone bills, these kinds of claims are not permitted under the ACA, although they could be claimed under a different allowance.
In defence of his expenses accusations, Sarwar said, “I have a huge office manned by four staff. I have to travel a lot, to and from London. I run one of the busiest surgeries and my local community knows I have always been there to help them and look after their needs. I could not have served the community without maintaining a big office.”
Shailesh Vara – North West Cambridgeshire,Con. £174.00
Shailesh Vara is a Conservative Party politician and was elected Member of Parliament for North West Cambridgeshire in the 2005 general election. In 2006, he was appointed to the shadow ministerial post of Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.
Shailesh tried to claim £1,500 for mortgage interest payments, council tax and cleaning services when he was not even an MP. When he put in his claim after becoming an MP it was found that some of it was for before he had been given the post.
The very fact that Asian MPs who we have all trusted for years are now having to repay back money that they wrongly claimed for from the taxpayers purse, goes to show that greed can play a dark part of every culture.
The damaged cause by all of this fraud is substantial to the reputations of MPs as a whole and will take time to heal, we just hope that going forward MPs will learn from the mistakes they have made and maybe one day we can regain faith in our local MPs again.
Raj Nayak is the CEO of Colors TV and Rishtey Cineplex at Viacom18 Media. In an exclusive Gupshup with DESIblitz, Raj talks Bigg Boss, 24 and more!