Baroness Warsi: how to stay for free in London
DID Baroness Warsi fiddle her expenses? The Sunday Times says Warsi, the co-chairman of the Conservative party, cost the taxpayer £165.50 a night for stopping at Dr Wafik Moustafa’s private house in Acton west London while attending the House of Lords in 2007 and 2008.
How was that price fixed? Warsi, who is based at her home in West Yorkshire, says she paid “appropriate payment equivalent to what I was paying at the time in hotel costs”. So. Why not stay at a hotel, then? Maybe she simply preferred the small lodgings of a GP, who was once a Tory parliamentary candidate for the Conservative party? Dr Moustafa says Warsi never paid him any money for bed and board:
“Baroness Warsi paid no rent, nor did she pay any utilities bills or council tax. It was an informal arrangement, so no tenancy contract was drawn up…I’m not exactly sure how many days she stayed in total, but I believe my home was her main London residence [at the time].”
That was generous of him.
Also at the doctor’s home was Naweed Khan, at the time a member of Conservative Campaign HQ staff. Says Warsi:
“For the nights that I stayed as a guest of Naweed Khan, I made an appropriate payment equivalent to what I was paying at the time in hotel costs.”
“I confirm she made a financial payment on each occasion, which compensated for the inconvenience caused and additional costs incurred by me as a result of her being there.”
“He [Khan] introduced her to me but she came as a guest of mine. I even gave her the front-door key. Naweed Khan never paid me any money.”
Still, it’s easy enough to prove it one way or the other: show us the receipts and invoices. Problem is there might not be any. One thing we learned from the expenses scandal is that at the time of Warsi’s Acton stays, members of the House of Lords did not have to provide receipts for expenses incurred in the line of duty.
Labour MP John Mann puts the argument succinctly:
“If you are paying no rent where you are staying, you can’t possibly be claiming subsistence for staying there.”
A “friend” of Warsi tells the paper:
“On the few occasions when she could not get to a hotel and was staying in this property she claimed the overnight subsistence allowance — which was within the rules.”
The Times tells us that between October 15, 2007, and March 31, 2008, Warsi claimed £12,247 in overnight subsistence.
Warsi now owns a flat in Wembley. She bought it in 2007 but it wasn’t ready for occupancy until 2008. In the meantime, she stayed “occasional nights”, at Naweed Khan’s digs.
Given the going rate for nights in unglamorous part of London, Warsi might care to supplement her incomes by renting out a room or two…
Stop Press: Warsi does rent out that Wembley home. As her career soared Warsi moved from the north-west London suburb to a place nearer work. The Times reports:
The Sunday Times investigation also revealed Warsi had failed to declare rental income she was receiving on the Wembley flat after she moved to another address closer to the Lords shortly after joining the cabinet in June 2010.
That is breach of the rules:
She amended her entry in the Lords register of interests last Monday — two days after The Sunday Times visited the block close to Wembley stadium. Agents in the area said Warsi could earn up to £1,200 a month in rent. She is believed to have been receiving rental income from the start of 2011, meaning her total undeclared income could have been as much as £20,000. Peers are required to register any rental income worth more than £5,000 in a calendar year.
Warsi blamed an “oversight”, adding that “when the discrepancy became apparent this week, I immediately informed the registrar of Lords’ interests of its omission”. She said her ownership of the flat and the fact that it was being rented out was “fully disclosed to Cabinet Office officials and HM Revenue & Customs”.
A Conservative party spokesman said: “All Baroness Warsi’s claims were in accordance with House of Lords rules and reflected the fact that as a peer who lived outside London, she incurred costs when required to stay overnight in London on House of Lords business.”
If you spot any Lords staying at that flat, let us know…