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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Millionaire cabinet minister uses £2,500 of taxpayers' money to learn to speak Mandarin (but he's been married to a Chinese woman for two years)

By Daily Mail Reporter

A millionaire Conservative cabinet minister has spent more than £2,500 of taxpayers' money learning Mandarin - despite being married to a Chinese woman.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has a multi-million pound fortune and earns £135,000 a year as a cabinet minister, took advantage of a Commons perk which pays for private tutoring for MPs.

He had language classes worth £2,527 funded by Westminster - despite having a Chinese wife, figures obtained under the freedom of information act reveal.

Language barrier: Jeremy Hunt with his wife Lucia. The cabinet minister took advantage of a Commons scheme which offers private tutors for MPs

Mr Hunt, who paid himself a bonus of almost £2million last year from his publishing company Hotcourses, married wife Lucia in her home town of Xian two years ago.

Before he married Lucia, the Tory MP - who has been tipped as a future party leader - flew to China to ask her father's permission to marry her. But he had to rely on his then-fiancee to translate as her father didn't speak a word of English.

Mr Hunt's spokeswoman said the Mandarin lessons had been useful when welcoming the Chinese Prime Minister to the UK this year.

Mr Hunt is one of a number of politicians who have taken advantage of the extravagant Commons scheme, which involved private tutors visiting the Houses of Parliament for private lessons, it has been reported.

In the last five years, the scheme has cost taxpayers £110,279.58 - spent by 39 MPs who took classes in 11 languages ranging from Spanish, French and Italian to Urdu, Arabic and Sylheti, according to the Daily Mirror.

Personal tutors taught some lessons while others were held at a language school run by the Foreign Office, which has since closed. The figures show that spending on the scheme peaked int he 2009-10 financial year, which £37,257.15 being spent.

Other big spenders included Michael Jack - the former Tory minister - who used £4,768.77 to improve his Italian and then retired to Tuscany to run a vineyard,
And former Lib Dem Mark Oaten, who quit as an MP in 2010 following shameful revelations that he visited a rent boy in 2006, ran up a bill of £4,035.94 for French lessons.

Labour MP John Mann, who spoke out against the scandal of MPs' expenses, said the revelations were 'unacceptable', and told the Daily Mirror: 'Working people feeling the pinch will be astonished that these MPs still don’t get it.'

Foreign tongues: Former Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten and ex-Tory minister Michael Jack were among the politicians who took advantage of the perk



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