SDLP leader’s register of interest lapse ‘due to an administrative error…’

So after some ribbing on Twitter for not covering this story (try Googling it guys?), John Manley reports this morning that Alasdair McDonnell is in a bit of bother again, this time over not reporting income from a rental property he bought in London in 2005 when he was first elected:

The South Belfast MP and MLA blamed “an administrative error” for the failure to declare his London apartment on the House of Commons register of interests.

Dr McDonnell has been claiming around £3,000 a year for hotel stays in London since 2009 when the accommodation allowance rules changed. Rental income from his flat, in the Vauxhall area, has not been declared during this period.

However, the rental property has appeared on the Stormont register of interests from 2011. The amount of rent he receives is not revealed.

Prior to 2009 members of parliament were entitled to purchase property for use in London and claim back the interest on the mortgage, the stamp duty and the furnishing of the apartment.

Manley goes on to report:

From his election to Westminster in 2005 up until 2009 the SDLP leader claimed more than £86,000 on expenses towards the mortgage interest on the Vauxhall apartment.

When he bought the property in 2005 Dr McDonnell also claimed £13,800 in stamp duty from parliamentary expenses and £1,360 for blinds and curtains.

Following the Westminster expenses scandal five years ago, which led to a tightening of the rules on what MPs could claim for, Dr McDonnell began staying in hotels.

The early details are more revealing than McDonnell’s neglect to tell the Commons after the rule change about the rental income. Not least because when the register of interests was introduced at Stormont in 2011 he duly obliged with the detail.

At that level of public subsidy, why wouldn’t a MP get himself a little pied a terre in London? Or club together allowances with colleagues to rent a little yellow brick house you don’t need to use.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty