Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

£150,000: average taken from British taxpayers by each MP in expenses

MPS were claiming record sums of money from the taxpayer until the final moment that the expenses scandal erupted.

The total bill for their allowances jumped by almost 3% to £95.6m in 2008-09, an average of almost £150,000 for each MP.

The last financial year ended just four weeks before details of the extent of abuse of expenses emerged, plunging Westminster into crisis.

The most expensive politician last year was Mohammed Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, who received £192,986.87. His claim included £31,310 of travel claims and £99,104.72 for staffing costs. He was followed

by Roger Godsiff, the Labour MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath (£189,337.89) and Angus Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray (£188,164.16).

Details of last year's allowance payments came as Sir Thomas Legg published his long-awaited audit of every claim by MPs for their second homes over five years.

He instructed 390 current and former MPs to pay back a total of just over £1.3m, reduced to £1.1m after several appeals by MPs. More than half the 752 politicians whose claims he examined were judged to have over-claimed.

Sir Thomas's damning verdict comes as the Crown Prosecution Service prepares to announce today whether charges will be brought over allegations of serious expenses fraud against a small number of MPs and peers.

In his report, Sir Thomas launched a withering attack on the “deeply flawed” rules for claiming for second homes, accusing deferential Commons officials of turning a blind eye to abuses.

He pinned some blame on Lord Martin of Springburn, who resigned as Commons Speaker last May amid anger over his handling of the crisis. The fees office had been “vulnerable to the influence of higher authorities in the House of Commons, from the Speaker down, and of individual MPs”, he wrote. “These influences tended more towards looking after the immediate interests of MPs than to safeguarding propriety in public expenditure.”

He also condemned the “vague” rules governing expenses claims.

The biggest single repayment will be made by Barbara Follett, the Local Government minister, who has returned £42,458.21, most of which was spent on security patrols outside her home.

The Tory husband and wife MPs Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride are returning £60,436 between them. Both are quitting after they claimed second homes allowance on different residences.

MPs have a deadline of February 22 to arrange repayments. Those who fail to comply face having the cash docked from salaries or their “golden goodbyes” when they leave Parliament.

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