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Adrian Collett condemns Howarth's response on expenses

May 27, 2009 1:30 PM
Adrian Collett

Adrian Collett, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

Adrian Collett, the prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Aldershot constituency, has condemned the reaction of Conservative MP Gerald Howarth to the expenses issue as "arrogant" and "out of touch".

Adrian commented, "Many people have reacted with disgust at Gerald Howarth's arrogance in saying he could earn more money than his £64,766 MPs salary if he returned to his previous job as a city banker. He gives the impression that he feels he's doing us a favour by being our MP!

"He went on to say that people expected him to act as "squire of the manor" by paying for charity raffle gifts and attending events, as though that justified any claims he made on the expenses system. What century does Mr Howarth think he is living in? Frankly, if he resents buying these gifts or attending those events then maybe it's time we had a MP who did so with sincerity and enthusiasm.

"What Gerald forgets is that it is a privilege to represent people in Parliament, not a chore. £64,766 is more than enough for most people to live on, but there is a bigger issue here. Over the five years from 2003/04 to 2007/08 Gerald Howarth has claimed over one hundred thousand pounds in the so-called Second Home Allowance. A total of £107,452.

"Now if he represented a northern constituency, or one in Scotland, Wales or the west country, it would be understandable that he needed a second home in London because it would not be possible to travel to and from London on a daily basis.

"I don't know whether Gerald Howarth spends most of his time in his time in his main home in Chiswick, and just comes to his second home in Farnborough when he has local events that he's "expected" to attend, but Aldershot Constituency is an area where thousands of people travel into London each day for their work and home again each night. The journey's a pain for those who have to travel in the rush-hour, but the hours of Parliament don't always require journeys to be made at those times.

"So if thousands of others can make that journey every day, why does Gerald Howarth have to claim six figure sums of taxpayers' money for a second home? The good and hard-working residents of Aldershot, Farnborough, Blackwater and Yateley deserve an explanation.

"My Liberal Democrat colleague David Howarth, the MP for Cambridge, happily travels in to London from his home in Cambridge each day, by train, and never claims a penny in second home allowance. So why can't his namesake Gerald Howarth do the same? After all, Cambridge is further from London than Farnborough.

"There used to be a time when Parliament sat through the night and MPs could find that the last trains had gone by the time the sitting had finished. But those days are long gone, thank goodness, so there's no excuse.

"I back the call by Nick Clegg that no MP should profit from the capital gains accumulated through the purchase of a second home which is paid for by the taxpayer. I'm not suggesting that Gerald Howarth has broken any rules here, but he does need to justify to those of us who are paying the bill why he believes his actions are justifiable.

"I travel a similar distance to Winchester most days of the week for County Council and Police Authority business. I would never dream of expecting the taxpayer to buy me a second home there. I live here, not in Winchester and on the one occasion I knew that I would not be able to get home at a reasonable hour I stayed in a hotel and paid the costs myself.

"As Gerald's main challenger at the next election I make it clear here and now that I have no intention of buying a second home in London if elected. I would continue to live and breathe the life of a local resident full-time, as I believe a local MP should."