Nadhim Zahawi has admitted he made a “genuine mistake” when he used taxpayers’ cash to heat his horse stables.
The new chancellor, who is running to replace Boris Johnson, spoke about the gaffe in his first broadcast interview after throwing his hat in the ring.
In 2013 the Sunday Mirror revealed he claimed for electricity at the stables, as part of a wider bill, other parts of which were allowed under the rules.
Zahawi at first defended his claims but now admits he made a “mistake”.
He told Sky News’ Kay Burley it was a “genuine mistake” as he did not realise his stable heating and personal heating was coming in on a single bill.
“It was a complete error, a mistake, and of course I apologised and repaid,” he said.
Asked if he was embarrassed, Zahawi said: “Of course. Deeply embarrassing. But it was a genuine mistake. It’s much better to admit and demonstrate than to do anything else.”
At the time Zahawi promised to repay part of a £5,822.27 expenses claim for his energy bills after it emerged taxpayers were paying for the electricity supply to his stables.
In a statement posted on his website, he said: “Since last week’s coverage of my energy bills I have been looking into them further and can confirm that all claims for heating fuel relate purely to my second home.
“However I have made a mistake with my electricity claims. On investigation I have discovered that the electricity supply for a mobile home located in the stable yard and for the stables themselves was linked to my house.
“Whilst a meter was installed in the stable yard I have only been receiving one bill, it was wrong to assume I was receiving two and to have not checked this sooner. I am mortified by this mistake and apologise unreservedly for it.
“I will obviously be paying back any money that was wrongly claimed immediately and have already contacted IPSA [Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority] regarding the correct procedure.”
Zahawi is one of at least 11 Tory MPs currently running to be leader of the Conservative party and prime minister.