A DUP MP has confirmed that he has repaid almost £1,500 after he was paid twice on a Commons expenses claim, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
But Upper Bann representative David Simpson has laid the blame firmly at the door of the Westminster Fees Office and underlined that the money has been paid back in full.
He hit out at the Fees Office saying: “I am extremely disappointed to have been put in this position as a result of how they handled this matter. Due to their bungling, misleading inferences can be drawn about innocent people.”
Mr Simpson, who is a partner in a Portadown meat company, explained that the claim dated back to May 2007 — a total of £1,482.98 for mortgage interest and food.
He said: “When no remittance advice was received from the Westminster Fees Office at the time, my office contacted them by telephone to query it, and they said that no such claim had been received. My office was told to submit a second claim, which was done and that was that as far as we were concerned.”
But with the current controversy over MPs’ expenses Mr Simpson ordered a complete trawl of his income since he was elected to Westminster in 2005. The two claims surfaced and his staff contacted the Fees Office.
“Again, the Fees Office responded by saying this claim had only been paid once, but on further checking they came back to say it had, in fact, been paid twice in error,” he said. “The result was I had been overpaid by £1,482.98 and I immediately took action to rectify this.
“I take very seriously the importance of maintaining public confidence in public representatives, which has been battered by the disgraceful behaviour of some MPs using money to pay for moats, duck islands and property speculation.
“It was at my initiative that this error was brought to the attention of the Fees Office. I am extremely disappointed to have been put in this position as a result of how the fees office handled this matter.
“This entire episode has brought home to me just how shambolic the system at Westminster is and how right our party is in calling for the complete abolition of the current system of rules governing MP’s allowances.”
Mr Simpson is the second Northern Ireland MP to have paid a four-figure sum back to the Fees Office. Earlier this month Lady Sylvia Hermon returned £2,730, which was two months’ rental allowance overpaid on her London flat during 2005-2006.