Former NZ dentist in Westminister expenses scandal

A former New Zealand dentist, Sir Paul Beresford, has been caught up in the scandal at Westminister over expenses claims.

Paul Beresford
Paul Beresford
Sir Paul, a Conservative MP in the British parliament, was born in Levin and started his dentistry practice in New Zealand.

He designated his west London property, which includes his surgery, as his second home on his parliamentary allowances, the Telegraph newspaper reported.

Sir Paul, who was named last year as the 34th "most influential" dentist in Britain, cut a deal with the House of Commons fees office that allowed him to put three quarters of the running costs of the property on the UK taxpayers.

The MP for Mole Valley in Surrey, who served as an environment minister under John Major for three years while retaining his successful dental practice, claimed that the arrangement was cheaper for the taxpayer.

Before his election to Parliament in 1992, the property -- two floors of a Georgian town house above a hairdressing salon in Putney, south-west London -- was registered with the local council as 50 percent residential and 50 percent business.

He had set up two surgeries in the flat, which were served by three dentists. On becoming an MP, Sir Paul decided to reduce his practice and work part-time, and charged three-quarters of the costs of the flat to taxpayers.

This included mortgage interest payments of £350 ($NZ917) a month, ground rent and other bills.

Sir Paul said that, at this stage, he had only one surgery and that the patient waiting room doubled as his private lounge in the evenings.

He decided to increase his practice in 2007 and took on a larger share of the running costs, putting 50 percent on the taxpayer.

Last year, he began to convert the surgery back to its original state and stopped claiming second home allowances altogether and said he would not claim again in future.

Sir Paul told the Telegraph his expenses claims on his second home were among the lowest in the Commons, adding that he had suffered financially as a result of cutting back his surgery hours and by not claiming for a separate second home.

"In effect, so as to reduce the cost to the taxpayer, I have lost private income," he said. "The taxpayer is not subsidising my practice."

The New Zealander is married with four children, and was knighted in 1990 for his services to inner-city rehabilitation. He led the Wandsworth council in south London in the 1980s in outsourcing work done by council staff to private contractors, a novel concept at the time.

His salary as a backbench Conservative MP is £64,766 ($NZ169,766) and his second home claims were £9154 (2005), £7694 (2006), £5328 (2007) and £3521 (2008).