Shahid Malik has admitted that the taxpayer had met the costs of office space in his constituency house and his designated second home in London simultaneously.
The Communities Minister claimed the maximum second home allowance for his London property while the office on the ground floor of his constituency house was funded through a separate parliamentary “office” expenses system.
The disclosure threatens to undermine the Prime Minister who only returned Mr Malik to government earlier this week after receiving assurances that his financial affairs were in order.
It now appears that Downing Street failed to scrutinise Mr Malik’s expense claims thoroughly before allowing him to hold ministerial office again.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed on Wednesday thatMr Malik had claimed more than £6,500 for a property described only as “office 2” on his parliamentary claim forms.
The minister had declined to tell this newspaper the location of the taxpayer-funded “office 2”. However, it can now be disclosed that “office 2” was the ground floor of his constituency home in Dewsbury.
Mr Malik said he needed the extra office space because the constituency office he inherited was not big enough.
However his expenses files show that he moved out of the original office into a new office in April 2006 but that he continued to submit claims for “office 2” until at least April 2008.
Mr Malik insisted last night that he paid rent separately for the “living area” of his constituency home.
However, no formal rental agreement exists for the “living area” and Mr Malik would not disclose how much rent he paid.
Both the constituency office and his constituency house were owned by controversial landlord, Tahir “Terry” Zaman, a friend of Mr Malik. Mr Malik stepped down as justice minister last month after The Daily Telegraph reported his landlord’s claim that he was paying well below the market rate for the rent of his home in his Dewsbury constituency.
Mr Brown reappointed him as a minister on Tuesday, saying that an investigation by Sir Philip Mawer, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial rules, had cleared Mr Malik of any failure to comply with the Ministerial code.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister refused to publish Sir Philip’s report.
On Wednesday, after calls for publication from figures including Sir Christopher Kelly of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Mr Brown backed down and promised to publish an edited summary of the document.
Mr Malik admitted details of his controversial “two homes on expenses” arrangements on Wednesday night.
Only a day after reappointing Mr Malik to the Government and clearing him of breaking ministerial rules, Downing Street failed to endorse the minister’s actions.
Speaking to journalists at Westminster, Mr Brown’s official spokesman made clear that it was up to Mr Malik to explain his use of public money.
The spokesman said: “If you have any particular accusation that you’d like to make towards Shahid Malik you should make them and you should give him an opportunity to respond to them.”
Over the past four years, Mr Malik has claimed more than £60,000 from the Commons authorities towards his designated “second home” in London. Since 2005, Mr Malik has been embroiled in a series of disputes with the authorities after claiming for a number of luxury items including a £2,600 home cinema system.
However, during this period he also paid Mr Zaman more than £6,500 for “office 2”.
Mr Zaman also let Mr Malik his main constituency office for which he has received at least £6,000. Mr Malik said last night: “When I was elected MP for Dewsbury I rented additional office space in my constituency because the office which I took over from my predecessor did not have enough room to accommodate my staff, who were working with me to serve the needs of my constituents.
“I paid £46 per week rent for the office space which was covered by my IEP cost allowances. A copy of the tenancy agreement was lodged with the House of Commons fees office in the normal way. The rent was paid by me to Yes Properties [Mr Zaman’s company] for which I was subsequently reimbursed by the Fees Office. In addition, I paid rent for the living accommodation. I made no claim under any allowance for the living accommodation.
“My home in Burnley was listed with the House of Commons fees office and with HMRC as my main home until I sold this in 2008.”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5499450/MPs-expenses-Shahid-Malik-admits-charging-taxpayer-for-two-houses.html