Michael Gove 'flipped' homes & even claimed for a cot mattress: MPs' expenses
Michael Gove, a front-bench ally of David Cameron, spent thousands on furnishing his London home before “flipping” his Commons allowance to a new property in his Surrey constituency, and claiming £13,000 in moving costs.
Shortly after being elected MP for Surrey Heath in 2005, Mr Gove furnished a house in north Kensington, west London, for which he claimed the Additional Costs Allowance.
Over a five-month period between December 2005, and April 2006, he spent more than £7,000 on the semi-detached house, which Mr Gove, 41, and his wife Sarah Vine, a journalist, bought for £430,000 in 2002. Around a third of the money was spent at Oka, an upmarket interior design company established by Lady Annabel Astor, Mr Cameron’s mother-in-law.
Mr Gove bought a £331 Chinon armchair from there, as well as a Manchu cabinet for £493 and a pair of elephant lamps for £134,50.
He also claimed for a £750 Loire table – although the Commons’ authorities only allowed him to claim £600 – a birch Camargue chair worth £432 and a birdcage coffee table for £238.50. Other claims in the five-month period included Egyptian cotton sheets from the White Company, a £454 dishwasher, a £639 range cooker, a £702 fridge freezer and a £19.99 Kenwood toaster.
Mr Gove even claimed for a £34.99 foam cot mattress in Feb 2006 from Toys 'R’ Us – despite children’s equipment being banned under Commons rules. He also charged the taxpayer for eight coffee spoons and cake forks, worth £5.95 each, four breakfast knives and a woven door mat worth £30. A claim for new patio furniture worth £219, including a four-seater bistro dining set, was turned down by Commons officials.
Some months later, Mr Gove moved house and transferred his second home allowance from the west London home to a £395,000 new property near Guildford.
In October 2006 he submitted a £13,259 bill for the cost of the move, including his local authority searches, fees and stamp duty. In between the house moves, he stayed for a night at the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa, charging the taxpayer more than £500 for a single night’s stay.
In 2007-08 and 2006-07 Mr Gove claimed the maximum amount of money permitted under the additional costs allowance: £23,083 and £22,110 respectively.
Mr Gove said last night that he would repay the cost of the cot mattress. The other items bought for his London home “were all, with one exception, below the acceptable threshold costs for furniture”.
“The items were bought from a mainstream retailer and when I was informed that they fell outside the range of allowable items I accepted that ruling without complaint,” he added.
The £13,259 moving costs were necessary, he said, so that he could have a home in the constituency “to effectively discharge my parliamentary duties”.