Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has Taxpayer Funded Second Home in London


Saturday, July 23rd, 2011. 12:10am


Cambridge MP Julian Huppert

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert now has a taxpayer funded second home in London.

The latest round of publication of MP’s expenses has revealed that Cambridge’s MP Julian Huppert now has a second home in London, paid for at our expense.

We are paying £1,170 a month in rent for Mr Huppert’s London property. We also cover at least some of the bills.

This rent will probably cover only a studio apartment within walking distance of Parliament, or maybe a small flat if he ventures slightly further afield. He may well be sharing a larger property with others.

I feel Mr Huppert has not been open and upfront about this; he regularly communicates with his constituents via Twitter but did not mention his decision to bill the taxpayer for a London property.

Rent payments to Huppert

Mr Huppert has been asked about his arrangements for staying in London but has usually provided rather cryptic replies. I personally wondered if he might be sleeping in his office, in breach of rules, and so unwilling to reveal what he was doing.

During the hustings in the run up to his election Mr Huppert and all other candidates indicated they would follow in the footsteps of Cambridge’s previous MP David Howarth and live in Cambridge and commute to London.

I don’t begrudge Mr Huppert having a place to stay in London paid for by my taxes. He often works late, sometimes without notice that he will be required to do so. I’d be more than happy to pay for a hotel for him in such circumstances. In fact taxpayers have been billed by him for a hotel on a couple of occasions, paying around £115-120 per night.

Rent payments to Huppert

Clearly if Mr Huppert spends more than ten nights a month in such a hotel it would be more efficient for us to pay for him to rent the place he has now taken. I suspect that renting somewhere might help Mr Huppert get more work done as he’ll be able to have his home comforts, papers and equipment around him.

While in the last few weeks the renting a London property might well have been the most cost efficient thing to do, I don’t know if that would hold true over the course of the full year, as Parliament is often on recess, as it is from now until the 5th of September.

I would like to see Mr Huppert explain and justify his decision to take a second home at public expense; had he set out his case for doing so before making the decision, and if it had made economic and practical sense, I suspect he would have received broad support from his Cambridge constituents. On a couple of occasions I’ve tweeted Mr Huppert when he has finished late in the chamber, and with committee sittings early the next morning (the private sessions often sitting earlier than those broadcast), saying I’d be happy to see my taxes used to give him a hotel for the night, and others have chimed in to agree and to thank him for his hard work.

I hope Mr Huppert is still living in Cambridge, in the constituency, and is only using the London property to stay overnight when travelling home is not practical (or if he needs to be working in London very early the next morning).

I note that Mr Huppert has, other than for rent, only claimed for a loan for a deposit, and a £43.27 electricity bill for his second home. I hope that Mr Huppert has made arrangements to pay the council tax, and other bills on his second home.

While researching this article I’ve used the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority websites. They are terrible. Getting Mr Huppert’s expenses details out was hugely time consuming, I was repeatedly faced with errors and the website was broken in many ways, for example when using the “select all” option for searching the expenses I only got a few train ticket and taxi claims out, it was only when specifically searching for the accommodation claims that they emerged. I an unable to provide direct links to the selected expense claims shown, or even to a page for Mr Huppert.

If that’s the kind of poor quality service from IPSA MPs, or their staff, have to suffer to put in claims, I’m impressed any manage it at all, and fully understand all the complaints they’ve been raising. IPSA is a very well funded organisation, with quite a simple job to do so the poor performance is inexcusable.

The latest, annualised, release of the expenses data is more detailed than what has previously been available. When I last looked through Mr Huppert’s expenses there was nothing to report – the only query I had was why so many of the train tickets appeared to have been bought with young-person’s railcards, until I realised they must have been for Huppert’s staff rather than himself, now if the expense is for the MP or their staff is made much clearer.

Now Mr Huppert has a place to stay in London, perhaps we’ll see him making more appearances on evening TV; I don’t think he’s yet been on Newsnight.

It is possible that Huppert may see having a place to stay in London as a necessary pre-requisite to promotion to a role in the Government following a reshuffle.

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16 comments/updates on “Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has Taxpayer Funded Second Home in London

  1. Phil Rodgers

    Thanks for the link. In fact there is a claim for Council Tax of £291.63 on 18/11/2010, though no other accommodation claims apart from the ones you mention. I agree that the IPSA website isn’t very good.

    What’s your source for saying that all the PPC candidates indicated at the hustings that they would commute to London?

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    Phill,

    Thanks for that. The council tax payment didn’t come up in any of the searches I did – the five hits shown were all I got for accommodation.

    Maybe he’s only paid the electric as he’s sharing a house and they’re sharing the bills, one paying one, another the next.

    I’ve not got a link to the statement made at the hustings, but I do remember it coming up at many, if not all, of them.

  3. Julian Huppert

    Hi Richard,

    I do indeed have a flat in London – a small 1-bedroom basement flat near Westminster.

    I tried commuting at first, (with occasional hotels) but the ridiculously late hours (and occasional unpredictability) made it extremely hard. I then for a while stayed on a friend’s sofa bed, but that couldn’t really last for 5 years!

    I therefor found a place from last October; it is significantly cheaper than the allowance (1600/month, if I remember correctly). It also means that it is much easier for me to take part in activities at the beginning and end of every day – breakfast meetings and the like. I also get a lot more work done, and more sleep!

    The core problem is the ridiculous hours that we sit; if Parliament sat more normal hours, it would be sensibly possible to commute – I’d prefer this, as I much prefer my own place in Cambridge!

    I was clear in the elections when people asked that I would not buy a taxpayer-funded home. I think it would be profoundly wrong for me to make a profit out of being an MP. Renting is different – it’s needed for the job, and I don’t benefit financially! For what it’s worth, if you look through the IPSA scheme (and I can understand not wanting to; your absolutely right about the terribleness of the IPSA website), you’ll see that there are lots of things I could claim for but don’t …

  4. Lucy Price

    I’m pleased to hear that Julian Huppert has a place in London. I do think the hours that MPs are expected to work do make this a necessity and certainly with the overcrowded and problematic link from Cambridge to King’s Cross I’d imagine very important for Mr Huppert.

    I’d imagine the working hours may put many people off. I’d be incapable of working that late and certainly it makes one wonder at the ability of people to be able to make sounds decisions at that time of day (this is a general statement not a comment directed at Mr Huppert).

    I’ve always thought, with accommodation, that it is surprising there isn’t some state run accommodation centre for MPs in this position, perhaps it could be run a little like a student hall with a subsidised restaurant/snack bar and meeting rooms and then bedrooms with a space to work. Although I’m sure the initial outlay would be expensive over time surely this must be cheaper than the countless hotel stays we must be paying for as well as rent such as we are paying for Mr Huppert.

    I understand that with the lateness of meetings it is sensible to have nearby accommodation meaning what we pay for is not cheap, so maybe a state run centre could be run at less that £1,600 a month that MPs can claim for currently. Student accommodation can be found in London for approx. £100 a week which is significantly cheaper than allowance.

    Finding a building may be hard, but then I suppose they could use a nearby office block and convert if one became available.

    I can’t see that the general populace would begrudge paying for this. Further to this the venue could then be used when parliament is in recess as a ‘tourist’ hotel and people may even pay more money because it is part of parliament etc…and very central.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Even the expenses scheme section of the IPSA website is a joke.

    http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/IPSAMPs/Schemeold/Pages/default.aspx

    It says the London Area Living Allowance is £1330; yet Huppert was paid £1441.31 ; so I assume it’s gone up and they’ve not updated their own site!

    Section 4.13 of the scheme (*) states:

    4.13 For MPs claiming for rental payments in the London Area, the annual Accommodation Expenditure budget (including all associated expenditure as set out at paragraph 4.9) is £19,900.

    £19,900 / 12 months = £1,658.33 / month

    That may or may not be up to date, it’s hard to tell given how rubbish the IPSA website is. There is a “schemeold” in the URL but I got there via the front page of the site. (The link to the Expenses Scheme from the front page of http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/ contains “schemeold” )

    In response to Ganesh, it appears MPs can still buy homes and have taxpayers pay their mortgage, or contribute to it, but there are arrangements for any capital gains made to be paid back. There appear to be transitional arrangements for MPs who were MPs before the 2010 election, but exactly what the “mortgage interest subsidy” which was previously available, is isn’t obvious to me:

    http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/IPSAMPs/Schemeold/Schemeannexa/Pages/default.aspx

    Whatever it is I’ve found an IPSA press release which indicating it will be abolished.

    “mortgage interest subsidy, which ends in August 2012,”

  6. Ganesh Sittampalam

    The London Area Living Allowance is for those MPs not entitled to a second home. Cambridge isn’t one of the constituencies listed there.

    I think it’s only returning MPs who were already claiming mortgage interest – no new MPs could do it.

  7. Chris Markham

    As someone who has to make a similar commute to London several times a month as Julian Huppert did most days, I can sympathise with the need to have a base there. While the train journey is indeed only around 45 minutes, unless you happen to live ‘at’ the train station life is more complicated.

    My preferred journey is obviously cycling, which I do as often as possible. But a 22 mile round trip is not always feasible given equipment and the need to wear a suit, which is not a good combination for some weather conditions. The buses are so badly timed I need to add nearly an hour each way to the stated journey time just to make the right connections. If I am forced to drive there is usually no available parking at the station because it has all been given over to staff parking and a private company so they can provide car washing facilities, so I end up parking miles away and hiking across town with all that kit.

    But you say – wait a minute, it is all going to be better. The guided bus is coming. Well first we have heard that for the last 3 years so I’ll be excited when it does but wait to see how feasible the journey is to the guided bus from my home and then the success of the guided bus in negotiating central Cambridge traffic in rush hour once it comes off its guided section. You will also say that the station is undergoing a multi-million pound makeover. Well that’s all good, when it eventually arrives but in the meantime could we just have some simple fixes like lockable parking for bikes that doesn’t cost £5 a week to hire? Buses that run directly to the station? How about sufficient working ticket machines so you don’t have to allow an extra 25 minutes just to stand in a queue to buy your ticket. And how about some signage en route to tell me how many parking spaces are available (just like there is for every other car park in town) for the days when I have no choice but to drive to the station.

    Maybe if this infrastructure was fixed Julian could spend more time in his constituency.

  8. Ganesh Sittampalam

    I also think it makes sense for Julian to have a base in London; I’m just a bit skeptical that his promise in the elections was solely around *buying* a home, as I don’t believe that would have been an option anyway. Perhaps another lesson for the Lib Dems about making unrealistic promises ;-)

  9. Ganesh Sittampalam

    Re the London Area Living Allowance, turns out it is payable for people outside London; the £1330 is an extra for people who live in certain constituencies in London (presumably because of the higher cost of living):

    http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/IPSAMPs/Schemeold/schemepartb/Pages/default.aspx

    “5.1 The London Area Living Payment is intended to contribute towards the additional expenses of living in the London Area or of commuting regularly to the London Area.

    5.2 The London Area Living Payment may be claimed by:
    a. London Area MPs, or
    b. non-London Area MPs who have informed IPSA of their intention not to claim for Accommodation Expenditure.

    5.3 The London Area Living Payment is limited to £3,760 per financial year, payable on a monthly basis.

    5.4 MPs representing certain constituencies (detailed in Schedule 3) may claim an additional £1,330 per year in London Area Living Payment.”

  10. Richard Taylor Article author

    Channel Four Dispatches is to feature MPs who rent from each other, and who rent despite owning homes in London.

    The Freedom of Information release which the programme is based on states Julian Huppert’s landlord is a Ms Elinor Mary Goodman and that his rent is paid from the state directly to Andrew Reeves (Letting agents).

    One interesting point is that Huppert has suggested previously (though I’m not sure where) that he shares the flat with another MP yet Elinor Mary Goodman only appears as a landlord once in the list. Maybe Huppert’s flatmate has asked for details of his landlord to be redacted?

    [Update: Huppert's comment above says it's a one bed flat so that's unlikely!]

    It has been suggested the Ms Elinor Mary Goodman in question could be the ex Political Editor of Channel 4 News from 1988 to 2005.

    The key question here remains if Julian Huppert ought have a taxpayer funded flat. My view is he certainly needs somewhere to stay in London, and that an MP’s job is special in that it is useful for them to have homes both in their constituency and in London so it’s not unreasonable that we pay for that. I understand that Huppert might not have realised until after he was elected that a flat was needed. I’m happy he has not chosen to do less as our MP and return to Cambridge each night in order to virtuously keep his promise and commute on a daily basis.

    As for who he is renting his flat from – I don’t think it’s particularly a story that he has a landlord!

    Overall that the list appears to indicate we’ve got a political class renting flats to each other and benefiting from the public money is interesting. The real scandal appears to be with those MPs who’ve moved out of their own flats to rent others so that they can continue to claim cash from the taxpayer; where any MPs have swapped flats to enable this it looks particularly bad – straightforward exploitation of the rules for personal gain. The redactions in the material released means we do not know the extent of the exploitation; perhaps more information on this will be revealed in the Dispatches TV show.

    1. Ganesh Sittampalam

      The rules are silly. If an MP has £300K in the bank, noone would bat an eyelid. But if they have £300K worth of flat in London, they can’t do the most efficient thing and be paid to occupy it themselves, and they get taken apart in the papers if they earn income from it in any other way. MPs should be allowed to occupy properties they own and be paid the market rent (rather than the mortgage costs), and be subject to CGT as if they were renting it to someone else. In any cases where there might be an incentive to up the rent – MPs renting from themselves or connected parties like other MPs/family members – there would need to be an independent assessment of the rent.

  11. Richard Taylor Article author

    On the 8th of May 2014 the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority released details of expenses claims from MPs which it had processed in December 2013 and January 2014.

    I have extracted Cambridge MP Julian Huppert’s claims from the update CSV file and made them available at:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1lLNGiIgY9uVud5Tqc-pBR-ota9lwzBEslBszLvI6b3I/edit?usp=sharing

    The IPSA website is very broken and it is impossible hard to get this information out of their their search tool, which as I’ve noted above I’ve found inconsistent before; this gives me little confidence in anything produced by IPSA, I’m just commenting on what they have produced.

    There were 32,000 claims with a value of £3.5m. On average, if those numbers are divided by the number of MPs (650) that gives 49 claims and £5384.62

    Huppert has had 44 claims processed with a total value of £3,652.68

    We are now paying £1,300 per month for his London flat. £2,600 of the £3,652.68 is rent on the flat. There are no claims for council tax on the London flat though; I hope he’s paying it and he’s not going to end up in court, or jail!

    The other costs are almost all either Huppert’s own travel; or travel for his staff (their salaries are paid separately and don’t come under expenses).

    Other expenses payments in the batch released in May 2014:

    • Phone bills of £48.16 and £43.89 for his constituency office
    • Two fax line bills of £19.44; I’m surprised fax technology is still in use but presumably he has to communicate with some archaic elements of the state. The fact the two monthly bills are the same suggests he’s not sending any faxes and he has the equipment to receive them.
    • Huppert claimed £22.05 for traveling 49 miles to Hinchinbrooke in his own car for a LEP meeting. This is classified as “Within Constituency Travel” though I suspect Huppert is aware his constituancy does not in fact extent to Hinchinbrooke. If I literally believed the material produced by IPSA it might be noteworthy that Huppert has got his own car, but I don’t have enough confidence in it to comment, and he could just be using the nearest relevant classification.
    • Huppert spent £30 on room hire for two surgery events, and £20 for another surgery. The presence of a charge for only three such surgeries in two months suggests he’s getting some such rooms for free eg. at the Guildhall I expect, as his tweets suggest he holds surgeries more frequently.
    • Huppert has spent £18 sanatising the water cooler at his office.
    • Huppert has spent £18.43 on a ream of A4 paper. (This appears to be a good price for the quality product he has purchased, though much cheaper paper is available.)
    • Huppert spent £2.10 on an individual highlighter pen.
    • And lastly, the records suggest he purchased a single Bic Cristal black biro for £10.07; (100 are available for £12.59 so that appears a rather expensive). A reasonable interpretation of would be he probably bought a pack and I suspect Huppert in fact got more than one biro for our £10.07 and the description of the expenses entry is slightly lacking. Huppert clearly hasn’t adopted the Ryan Air chief’s policy of taking biros from hotels rather than buying them though.
    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Some of these minor expenses entries appear to be a distraction from the real costs. The IPSA website can be cajoled into revealing (but not enabling links to) payments of £3,231.25 per month for constituency office rent as well as office utility bills.

      Notably Huppert has £577.70 of legal expenses insurance, which looks like an annual premium.

      The only staffing amount I can extract from the IPSA website’s search function for the 2013-14 financial year is a £2,754.83 payment for pooled services made on 01/05/2013; I expect there must be more staff costs somewhere, but I can’t obtain them from the web-based search system. The latest payroll data appears to be the annual report for 2012-13 (now over a year out of date); this latest annual report summaries the costs of Julian Huppert MP as:

      2012-13

      Office Costs £15,665.21
      Staffing Expenses £2,757.90
      Payroll £132,526.00
      Accommodation £12,436.66
      Travel and Subsistence £2,733.00
      MP Salary £65,738.00

      That gives the total cost to the public of Julian Huppert MP in 2012-13 as £231,856.77

  12. Anon

    An interesting question would be who owns the constituency office he pays rent on. If it’s the lib dems, as it seems to be with many MPs then things aren’t quite so rosy… It would be a direct state subsidy to a political party. Who knows, perhaps they don’t own it, it would interesting to know though.

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