Tory MP and dentist Sir Paul Beresford has hit the headlines regarding his expenses’ claims.
The news story – at www.telegraph.co.uk – reports that Sir Paul, rated 34th in this year’s Dentistry Top 50 poll of the most influential dentists in the country, ‘worked out a deal with the House of Commons fees office whereby he put three quarters of the running costs of the property on the taxpayer.
‘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, insisted that the arrangement was cheaper for the taxpayer.’
The story continues:
‘But the understanding with the fees office is certain to raise further questions about the lax policing of MPs’ expenses, after it emerged that officials did not visit the surgery to assess Sir Paul’s designation of his property, or ask to see floor plans.
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% residential and 50% business.
He had set up two surgeries within the flat, which were served by three dentists.
On becoming an MP, Sir Paul said the fees office suggested that he purchase a second home but he decided instead to reduce his practice and go part-time.
As the council and some utility companies charged him separate business rates, he said he decided that “roughly” three-quarters of the costs of the flat were related to his parliamentary duties and so should be borne by the taxpayer.
This included mortgage interest payments of £350 a month, ground rent and other bills.
Sir Paul said that, at this stage, he had only one surgery and no associates, and that the patient waiting room doubled as his private lounge in the evenings. However, it appeared that his assessment was not independently scrutinised by officials.
The MP decided to increase his practice in 2007 and took on a larger share of the running costs, putting 50% on the taxpayer.
Last year, he began to convert the surgery back to its original state, and stopped claiming second home allowances altogether. He said he would not claim again in future. The Putney practice bears a gold plaque reading: “Sir Paul Beresford, Derrick Donald and associates dental surgery.”
Sir Paul said his claims 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.
“Patients are aware and accept the Commons takes precedence and accept short-notice cancellations,” he said.
“The mortgage interest was relatively low so I decided that this was a preferable option as it cost the taxpayer less even though I lost money on the much-reduced dental practice.
“In effect, so as to reduce the cost to the taxpayer, I have lost private income. The taxpayer is not subsidising my practice.”’
Sir Paul was born in New Zealand and graduated in dentistry there before completing a year’s postgraduate course at the Eastman.
He first practised in the East End of London and later moved to the West End, but his clinical career was gradually overshadowed by other commitments.
Goaded into politics in reaction to the left-wing activities and expensive mismanagement of the 1974-78 Labour Wandsworth Council, Paul joined the Putney Conservatives and was elected to Wandsworth Council in 1978. He held a wide variety of positions as a councillor, becoming the Council’s Leader in 1983, and was knighted in 1990 for his contribution to inner-city rehabilitation.
Two years later Paul was elected Member of Parliament for Croydon Central.
He was a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment from 1994-1997, and has been a Member of Parliament for Mole Valley, Surrey, since May 1997. Paul is also a member of the Communitiy & Local Government Select Committee.
His position as a qualified dentist and member of the British Dental Association, the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the British Endodontic Society and the British Dental Bleaching Society, means he is often called upon to comment in the Commons on dental issues, recently pressing for registered dentists to be given more leeway under European Law on teeth whitening.
He made his debut in this year’s Top 50 (www.dentistry.co.uk), the fourth year Dentistry magazine and Dentistry.co.uk have run this campaign in which thousands of votes are cast as the dental world have their say on who they feel are the most influential people in the UK dental profession.