Annex A Letter
to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards |
from Mr Kevin Cochrane
Following the allegations made against Michael Trend,
MP, as contained in the 'Mail on Sunday' in yesterday's edition
(15/12/02) I would ask that you investigate these allegations
as a matter of urgency.
The allegations concern an apparent practice by Mr
Trend of claiming for overnight accommodation when voting in the
Commons. Over a number of nights the MOS allege that he actually
returned home to his house in Windsor whilst claiming for the
cost of an overnight stay in London. This practice is alleged
by the MOS to continued for a number of years and the amount of
expenses alleged to have been claimed is approximately £100,000.
As I do not have access to Mr Trend's Expense claims
or his records at the Fees Office I cannot provide any documentary
evidence that would add support to the MOS's allegations. Given
the seriousness of these allegations and the lengthy time period
they cover I would ask that you request any such evidence from
the MOS and that you ask Mr Trend provide you with a detailed
response to these allegations.
Given these matters, I would ask that you also ask
Mr Trend if he has made a full disclosure of all paid activities
in the Register of Interests for MP's.
To declare my interest in the matter, I am a member
of the Ascot Labour Party and also a resident/voter in Mr Trend's
16 December 2002
Articles from The Mail on Sunday
on 15 December 2002
A Row over MPs' expenses erupted last night after
claims that a Tory MP has falsely claimed up to £100,000
of taxpayers' money.
The Mail on Sunday today reveals that Conservative
MP Michael Trend receives nearly £20,000 a year in a taxfree
allowance intended to pay for London accommodation for MPs from
Mr Trend, who has claimed the steadily rising allowance
for ten years, regularly commutes the 25 miles between London
and his home in his constituency of Windsor.
Leading political figures last night called for an
investigation into claims of fiddled expenses by MPs such as:
- Bogus mileage claims charged at 53p a mile worth
thousands of pounds a year; and
- Boasts by MPs who have used expenses to cash
in on the London property boom.
Antisleaze former MP Martin Bell said last
night: 'As an MP you are almost invited to sign a cheque to yourself
each month. Thousands of pounds are paid out to MPs and no one
ever asks for a receipt.' And Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker
said: 'We need a new system whereby MPs' expenses are properly
Mr Trend, 50, who put in a claim for the full £1,643
'additional costs allowance' in November, admitted he spent 'most
evenings' at Windsor, but insisted he had done nothing wrong.
He said he also had a London address but refused
to reveal details. A source in the Commons Fees Office, which
pays MPs' expenses, said: 'No one is policing these claims and
large sums are wasted.' Former Parliamentary Commissioner for
Public Standards Elizabeth Filkin told friends she tried to investigate
MPs' expenses but was told to 'keep her nose out'. Mr Trend could
face an inquiry by her successor, Philip Mawer.
The total paid in MPs' expenses and allowances is
expected to rise from £57 million last year to a record £94
million this year. The salary bill has gone up from £31 million
to £36 million.
Senior political figures called for an investigation
into MPs' expenses last night following allegations that a senior
Conservative has falsely claimed up to £100,000 in Parliamentary
A Mail on Sunday investigation into claims that MPs
are fiddling hundreds of thousands of pounds of expenses has established
that a top Tory MP who mainly commutes to the Commons each day
claims a £20,000 ayear taxfree allowance meant
for overnight stays in London.
Windsor Conservative MP Michael Trend regularly drives
the 25 miles to the Commons from his £700,000 house in Berkshire,
where he lives with his wife Jill and their three children.
But The Mail on Sunday has learned that Trend, 50,
claims the full £1,643 amonth 'additional costs allowance'
meant for MPs who need accommodationusually near the House
of Commonsto carry out their Parliamentary duties.
He is understood to have claimed the full allowance
ever since becoming an MP in 1992a sum totalling more than
£100,000 over the years.
Mr Trend admitted to The Mail on Sunday that he spent
'most evenings' at Windsor, but insisted he had done nothing wrong.
He said he also had an address in London but refused to reveal
details, claiming it was 'confidential' and adding: 'I don't stay
there very often because of the hours we now work in Parliament.'
Fears that the system is being abused are shared
by some officials in the Fees Office who have expressed their
worries about MPs' claims.
One politician said he believed that more than one
MP living in the Home Counties is taking advantage of the ending
of latenight Commons sittings to commute home each night
while falsely claiming money for staying overnight in London.
Antisleaze former MP Martin Bell said: 'We
need proper checks to ensure taxpayers are not being cheated.'
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said last night:
'Unless MPs' claims are properly monitored they are open to the
accusation that they are exploiting the system when in reality
it is a small number who are giving the rest a bad name. Receipts
should be provided so that expenditure is demonstrably matched
by expenditure incurred.'
Most MPs freely admit that the biggest area of potential
abuse is with the 'additional costs allowance', which is to cover
MPs' 'expenses incurred when staying overnight away from their
main home whilst performing Parliamentary duties'.
Its main purpose is to pay for MPs with seats outside
the capital to stay in London during the week so they can be near
The allowance has risen over the years since Mr Trend
became an MP. Last year, after a revolt led by Labour MPs, it
soared from £13,300 a year to £19,722. MPs can use the
£1,643 monthly allowance to pay rent or obtain a mortgage,
or to stay in hotels.
Many, like Mr Trend, claim every penny of the allowance
without providing receiptsin clear breach of the Commons
Confidential advice issued to all MPs by the Commons
Fees Office, which pays expenses and allowances, states: 'You
must provide supporting evidence for major items of anticipated
or actual expenditure such as mortgage interest/rent.'
It also states: 'You should break down the expenses
into the categories shown on the form.'
And it warns MPs not to cheat, saying: 'Your signature
effectively certifies that the amount claimed has been spent on
the additional costs necessarily incurred in staying overnight
away from the main home.'
The MPs' Code of Conduct states: 'No improper use
shall be made of any payment or allowance made to MPs for public
purposes and the administrative rules which apply to such payments
and allowances must be strictly observed.'
An insider with experience of the Fees Office said:
'An MP who wants to make a false claim can do so quite easily.
Some of the forms that come in contain little more than a name
and an amount of money. There are no details, no proof, no nothing.
'Many of us are worried about the way it is administered,
but when we raise queries we are told it's all above-board.
'There are rumours that some MPs treat the London
living allowance as a means of topping up their income.'
Within ten days of making claims, the £1,643
cheque arrives, made out to the MP. And no tax is paid. As the
40 per cent tax rate kicks in at earnings over the £29,900
mark, any MP pocketing the full allowance would be gaining the
equivalent of an extra £33,000 on the basic £55,000
salary, taking him or her to £88,000.
Mr Trend is believed to have submitted a full £1,643
claim for Novemberworth £411 a week.
A Mail on Sunday investigation conducted in the last
week of November showed that he spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
night at his home in Claremont Road, Windsor, emerging from the
house each following morning to go to the Commons and returning
home each night.
The Commons did not sit on Friday which Mr Trend
spent in his Windsor constituency.
The pattern remained broadly the same for the next
two weeks, apart from Parliamentary trips to Lithuania and Bristol.
He was observed commuting to the Commons two or three times each
week, by car or train, returning in the evening.
The mystery over his London address is compounded
by the BBC's guide to MPs' phone numbers which gives the number
at the home in Islington, sold by Mr Trend ten years ago when
he entered the Commons.
Tom Carter, who, with wife Deirdre, bought the house
from Mr Trend, told The Mail on Sunday: 'We still get the occasional
call for Mr Trend, usually from the BBC.'
A BBC source said: 'We update the guides every two
years or so. It would be most odd if an MP's number has been printed
inaccurately for ten years. We go to great lengths to check them.'
The number for Mr Trend's constituency office was
correctly amended by the BBC when it changed. Mr Trend said: 'I
have asked the BBC a number of times to take the number out of
the book, but I have not put down another number.' His elderly
mother Patricia, who lives in Rochester Row only a mile from the
Commons, said: 'He never stays here.'
While refusing to reveal his London address, Mr Trend
insisted: 'I do have a home in London. It is somewhere I stay
in London late at night. The Whips know where it is. I have Hansard
He refused to say where the house was or who owned
it but added: 'During my first parliament I stayed there almost
But he seemed uncertain. At first he said he was
sure his arrangements were within Parliamentary rules. 'I've checked
with the Fees Office it is absolutely straight.' Later
he said he could not comment until he had 'doublechecked
with the Fees Office'.
Mr Trend said the address did not belong to him.
Asked if he paid rent for staying there, he said: 'What I do with
my allowances is a private matter. I claim the allowances on this
place [the Windsor house], don't I?'
When told the allowance was usually for a London
base, he appeared to change his mind. 'Then I claim in London.'
Asked if he stayed in Windsor every night, he said:
'No. I spend some time in London. I have not looked at the rules
for a long time but I am pretty sure that I am absolutely OK.
'I do have an address in London. I know you will
not take my word for itbut I do.'
Mr Trend was educated at Westminster School and Oriel
College, Oxford. He has been MP for Windsor since 1992 and his
fourstorey house is within walking distance of Windsor Castle.
He and wife Jill have two daughters and a son, all
of whom attend private schools.
A former aide to exEnvironment Minister Tim
Yeo, Mr Trend was deputy Tory chairman and is a member of the
Commons Public Administration Committee, which monitors standards
in the public services.
His father was Lord Burke Trend, one of the most
famous Cabinet Secretaries.
Martin Bell believes that new checks on MPs' expenses
are vital. He says: 'The system is far too lax and belongs to
the days when the Commons was a club and everyone's word could
be trusted. Many claim the maximum they are allowed and no one
ever asks for a receipt.
'No commercial organisation would operate like that.
'Mileage claims are wide open to abuse. If you tell
them you have driven to your constituency every day, no one ever
comes back to check. There is a general tendency to inflate mileage
travelled in constituencies.'
And Lib Dem MP Mr Baker said: 'The systems for auditing
the additional costs allowance are inadequate and open to abuse
'In the past, I have tried to find out how much MPs
claim in various types of expenses but the Fees Office said they
couldn't do it. It is clearly in the interests of MPs and taxpayers
to have a properly audited system'
He added: 'I am not suggesting any MP has acted illegally.
But I have serious doubts about the ethics of this allowance which
is meant to enable MPs to stay in London to perform their Parliamentary
duties, but which allows them to make a profit on a second property
when they cease to be an MP.
'Or even worse, simply to pocket the allowance without
even having a second property.'