Hazel Blears attempts to rebuild reputation with £13,332 cheque

Gordon Brown and Hazel Blears

Gordon Brown and Hazel Blears launch the Jobs Fund for Social Enterprises scheme during a breakfast meeting today with young apprentices at Downing Street. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/AP

Hazel Blears attempted to rebuild her reputation tonight, promising to pay £13,332 in capital gains tax that she had avoided when she sold one of her homes.

Brandishing a cheque for television cameras, the communities secretary acknowledged the "public outrage and anger" over MPs' expenses and said her priority was to rebuild trust with her constituents.

"My position is that I'm the MP for Salford and I'm absolutely determined to make sure that my reputation, and my relationship with the people that sent me here to speak up for them, is rebuilt and that's the most important thing to me at the moment."

Leaked expenses claims revealed Blears declared a flat in Kennington, south London, as her primary residence for tax purposes – thus avoiding capital gains tax on the £45,000 profit she made when she sold the property – while telling the Commons authorities that it was her second home, a designation that enabled her to claim hundreds of pounds in parliamentary expenses.

Blears said she had acted within the rules of the Commons and the Inland Revenue but said the response of the public had persuaded her to act.

"I've heard absolutely the outrage and the anger the public feel about what has been going on," she said.

Challenged over why she "flipped" the designation of her second home, Blears said she was "forced" to name her constituency address as her second home by Commons officials: "The only reason that my Salford home was designated my second home was at the insistence of the fees office, who said that when you become a minister you live in London."

Blears said she had discussed the decision to write out a cheque for £13,332 with her family and Gordon Brown.

But she added: "The single most important thing in my life is my relationship with my constituents in Salford. I see people are really, really angry about this so I have decided to send this cheque."

"I know people will still be angry, and that this doesn't take that away. The bottom line is that all MPs have a job to do to rebuild trust between the people and parliament, and that will take time."


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Hazel Blears attempts to rebuild reputation with £13,332 cheque

This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 00.39 BST on Wednesday 13 May 2009. It appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday 13 May 2009 on p6 of the UK news section. It was last updated at 14.35 BST on Wednesday 13 May 2009.

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