Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Iris Robinson reclaims £300 in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson with his wife Iris at his desk at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Northern Ireland

Two DUP MPs have been refunded over £1,000 which they had paid back to parliamentary authorities in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal, it has emerged.

Iris Robinson and William McCrea were among 23 MPs who were quietly returned a total of £42,000 in refunds on expenses paid back following the scandal last year.

Mrs Robinson, who stood down as MP for Strangford after revelations of her affair with a teenager were exposed, reclaimed £299.84 according to parliamentary documents. And Mr McCrea, the DUP MP for South Antrim, was refunded £878.79.

Former Tory MP Sir John Butterfill had the highest refund, amounting to more than £15,000.

The Tory grandee, who stood down at the last election, was criticised after claiming for the costs of the servants’ quarters at his country mansion.

Meanwhile Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, was repaid £4.47 — the same amount she returned after claiming for dog food on her second home expenses.

The refunds are detailed in documents released following a Freedom of Information request.

News that politicians are receiving refunds on money paid back — however small the sums — is likely to cause another headache for parties, who have tried to draw a line under the scandal.

Some 390 MPs — including 10 from Northern Ireland — were asked to repay a total of £1.1 million after an audit by Sir Thomas Legg last autumn.

However, Commons authorities later wrote to some MPs whose demands were lower than the amounts they had returned.

A Commons official said: “They were asked to confirm whether or not they would require a refund.”

Thirteen current and former MPs — including Mrs Robinson and Mr McCrea — asked for money to be refunded.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the DUP yesterday, but a spokesman was unable to specify which of the claims the money refunded to Mr McCrea and Mrs Robinson related to.

“All our MPs complied with the Legg findings without quibble and paid the full amount,” he said.

“No questions were asked. If Legg made any errors, it is to be expected that they have been rectified.”

Other politicians requesting money to be returned included former Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid, who was refunded more than £4,600.

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