The Mail on Sunday
Expenses-row MP in line for £1m profit on taxpayer-funded flat
THE MP who kicked off the Commons expenses scandal is set to make a profit of more than £1million from selling his London home part-funded by the taxpayer.
Ex-Tory Derek Conway, who is quitting as an MP after overpaying his sons as Commons researchers, is trying to sell his three-bedroom apartment for £1.4million.
The MP, who bought the property in 1996, has claimed more than £160,000 in tax-free second-home allowances on it.
The flat, in a sought-after mansion block within walking distance of the Commons, was purchased for about £250,000 – leaving Mr Conway in line to make a handsome profit of more than £1million.
Estate agents Winkworths describe the flat in Pimlico, Central London, as ‘a superbly proportioned, spacious apartment with some of London’s finest boutiques, restaurants and theatres within walking distance in Belgravia, St James and Chelsea’.
Accompanying photographs show the flat’s lavishly decorated reception room and a bedroom with a fourposter bed.
After the General Election, new rules governing MPs’ expenses mean that new Members will be restricted to renting second homes while re-elected MPs who have bought second homes may have to repay cash if they make a profit when selling up.
However, Mr Conway will pocket the difference as he is standing down at the Election. He will also not have to pay capital gains tax because the flat is the only property he owns.
Last night, the MP insisted he had done nothing wrong, saying: ‘The public will always think MPs are paid too much, make too much money, have big pensions and live a life of ease.
‘There’s nothing any MP is going to do to change that. If the public could have a public hanging, they’d prob- ably like that too.’ Mr Conway also played down how much he would make from the sale of the flat, saying he had a £275,000 mortgage and had spent nearly £300,000 on it.
And he claimed that the taxpayer should only be concerned about any increase in value from 2001, the year he started claiming second-home allowances on it. The flat was then worth an estimated £800,000.
‘It’s not a £1.4 million flat until somebody pays that for it,’ Mr Conway said. ‘Until that point, it could be a £2 million flat or a £1 million flat.’
The row over the MP’s two sons, Henry and Freddie, who earned more than £80,000 while working for their father, was the first expenses scandal to engulf Westminster when it broke three years ago.
Mr Conway was ordered to repay £17,000 after Commons watchdogs ruled that Henry’s salary of £10,000 for an 18-hour week was too high. They also said that Freddie – then a university student – had been ‘all but invisible’ while supposedly working for his father.
Mr Conway, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup since 2001 but who represented Shrewsbury between 1983 and 1997, was kicked out of the Tory Party following the decision.
Since 2001, the MP has claimed nearly £170,000 in second-home allowances – in almost every year at or near the maximum allowed.
Asked why he was selling up now, Mr Conway said: ‘I’m not continuing in Parliament so I don’t want to stay in London.’
Property records show that he and his wife Colette, who is also his Commons secretary, bought a house in his Sidcup constituency in February 2003 for £185,000 but sold it in July 2007 for £348,495.
The MP has faced questions over why he had nominated the London flat as his second home when it appeared to be the family’s main residence.
Last night, he insisted he had abided by Commons rules and that Sidcup had been his main home.