Khanbhai repays over-claimed expenses
By Graham DinesPolitical EditorWITH just one week to go before nominations close for the European Parliament elections, Conservative Central Office has confirmed that one of the party's Eastern region Euro MPs has repaid over claimed expenses.
By Graham Dines
WITH just one week to go before nominations close for the European Parliament elections, Conservative Central Office has confirmed that one of the party's Eastern region Euro MPs has repaid over claimed expenses.
Bashir Khanbhai, an MEP since 1999, claimed mileage to Heathrow airport from his constituency office in Wroxham rather from his home address at Sevenoaks in Kent.
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Conservative Central Office said Mr Khanbhai's mistake had been rectified and that "the matter is closed." A spokesman added: "He was never under threat of de-selection."
An internal inquiry cleared the Euro MP of deliberate wrongdoing and ratified his place as number three on the Tory list for June 10's European Parliament elections, which is being contested under the closed list system of proportional representation.
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Mr Khanbhai, who is in Strasbourg this week at the last session of the Parliament before the elections, was said by his office to be "unavailable for interview" and his mobile telephone was switched off.
The controversy arose when Mr Khanbhai accepted the offer from the owner of a Wroxham boatyard to use it as an accommodation address for constituents' correspondence. This broke with the tradition that MEPs should take space in a Westminster MP's constituency office.
Mr Khanbhai then claimed mileage to Heathrow from Wroxham rather than from Sevenoaks - but the EADT understands that all money has been voluntarily repaid to the European Parliament which is not taking any further action.
Jeremy Savage, the Conservative Party's Norfolk and Suffolk Area Chairman, gave evidence on Mr Khanbhai's behalf at the Central Office inquiry, chaired by Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff, which decided to take no further action over the matter.
"Bashir Khanbhai has been an excellent MEP and has worked extremely hard on behalf of the people of Suffolk and Norfolk," Mr Savage told the EADT yesterday.
The Tory list will be headed by Geoffrey Van Orden, who last week failed in his bid to win the party's nomination to succeed Sir Teddy Taylor as Westminster MP for Rochford and Southend East.
Tory leader Michael Howard is due to share a platform with Mr Khanbhai and the party's six other East of England candidates when they launch the regional campaign for the European elections near Cambridge tomorrow.