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John Bercow, a capital (gains) fellow!
MPs perks, Issue 1387
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FLIPPING HELL: John Bercow, who earned an extra £40,000 a year as an MP... and got so confused about his main residence had to repay £6,500 in the expenses scandal
THERE were plenty of opportunities for holier-than-thou posturing after the dégringolade of two former foreign secretaries whose self-importance had left them with few friends in the Tea Room.

John Bercow set the sanctimonious tone. “People should not be in parliament to add to their personal fortune,” he sermonised. “It may well be that errors of judgment have been made. If that is so, then they will cop it, they will face the music, they will suffer a penalty.”

Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind had not actually made any money, of course, merely said they would like to. So whom was Speaker Bercow thinking of when he castigated the unpardonable greed of MPs who had added “to their personal fortune” since being elected?

Mortgage interest racket
Surely not the Rt Hon Member for Buckingham, John Bercow, who netted £40,000 a year as “adviser” to the owners of the Priory, where celebs go for rehab; nor the John Bercow MP who twice avoided having to pay capital gains tax on the sale of a house by telling HM Revenue & Customs it was his main residence but telling the Commons finance department it was a second home and thus eligible for the mortgage interest-only claim racket. After the expenses scandal in 2009, he agreed to pay back more than £6,500.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – then in opposition – asked Bercow to make sure the use of public money to take massive interest-only mortgages would be fully investigated in the review set up at the time. Bercow, apparently not then so censorious about MPs enriching themselves, refused. “Extending the review to cover changes of home designations for personal gain and the payment of capital gains tax,” he said, “would unquestionably involve significant retrospective changes to the rules on allowances.”

Second-job limit
Treble sighs of relief all round from figures such as Labour MP Sir Kevin Barron, who added £500,000 to his personal fortune by maxing out a publicly-funded mortgage on a Westminster flat which he then sold at a vast profit (Eyes passim). These days Sir Kevin enjoys a £15,000 bonus to his parliamentary salary, more than twice Ed Miliband’s proposed “second job” limit, as chairman of the standards committee – which will now sit in judgment on Messrs Straw and Rifkind. Isn’t life five-hundred grand?

More top stories in the latest issue:

The stamp duty loophole trustafarian chancellor George Osborne, heir to a fancy wallpaper empire, may hesitate to close.

The Barclay brothers won’t say if it’s HSBC, already a £250m lender, that’s also behind a £1.25bn arrangement at their online business, Shop Direct.

Jack Straw’s peerage may look shaky after his cash-for-access accident. But thanks to his well-connected, head-hunting wife, he’s unlikely to starve.

Despite loud calls for Russian sanctions, a close pal of Vladimir Putin is still invited to a London conference on what really counts – petroleum.

HSBC chief exec Stuart Gulliver, who’s spent most of his life in the UK but is domiciled in Hong Kong, makes a nonsense of those non-dom tax rules.

How research into the safety of the nation’s food is being handed on a plate to the disaster-prone outsourcing giant, Crapita.

Despite having been midwife to disastrous light touch regulation at the FSA, Sir Howard Davies is now trusted with the chair at taxpayer-owned RBS.

The government scheme to save billions in civil service staff costs by introducing shiny new websites falters on its two biggest initiatives.

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Next issue on sale: 17th March 2015.

Private Eye Issue 1386