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DUP MP tops Westminster expenses list: Strangford's Jim Shannon claims £229,262 in Westminster allowances

By Adrian Rutherford

A DUP MP had the highest expenses bill in the whole of the UK in the last year.

Jim Shannon's £229,262 claim included £38,215 on travel and £12,126 on accommodation.

His tab was £15,000 more than the second highest claim, which also came from a DUP MP, the party's North Antrim representative Ian Paisley jnr.

In total, Northern Ireland's 18 MPs claimed £2,872,910 in expenses during the 2013/14 period.

Most of the money was spent on staff costs, travel and accommodation.

The details were released in the annual report by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). The body was set up to administer MPs' pay and allowances following the 2009 expenses scandal.

The report revealed the UK's 650 MPs claimed a combined £103m in expenses during 2013/14 – a rise of £5m on the previous year.

Topping the expenses list was Mr Shannon, who has been MP for Strangford since replacing Iris Robinson in 2010.

His £229,262 claim included £35,846 on office costs and £143,074 on staffing.

Mr Shannon did not respond to requests for comment.

However, a DUP spokesman said: "In common with all DUP representatives, Jim provides a first-class constituency service, which in his case includes two full-time offices and satellite surgeries every Saturday across his constituency.

"There are eight fully trained professional staff included in the costs who provide help to thousands of constituents. Jim is renowned for his work record within the constituency and has continued that since his election as a Member of Parliament.

"The review of finances at Westminster mean that all expenditure is thoroughly scrutinised and approved by IPSA."

Mr Paisley jnr had the second highest claim, totalling £214,455.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy's £209,748 claim was the third highest.

Sinn Fein's five MPs claimed a combined £586,433. The MPs do not take their seats at Westminster in line with the party's policy of abstention.

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, who claimed £134,817, said: "Sinn Fein receive expenses, as do all other parties, for work carried out by Westminster representatives.

"This money is used to deliver a first-class service for our constituents as we lobby and meet with other groups in Britain in terms of ending partition, working against welfare cuts and developing the economy locally, to mention a few areas.

"Sinn Fein are mandated to represent people and therefore are entitled to this money."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell received £182,015. The South Belfast representative is one of three MPs who also sit as MLAs in the Assembly.

The others are the DUP's Gregory Campbell and Sammy Wilson.

Alliance MP Naomi Long received £172,442, while independent Sylvia Hermon claimed £154,568.

Earlier this month it emerged MPs could get a 10% pay rise. Prime Minister David Cameron has opposed the rise. The current basic annual salary for an MP is £67,060, although Sinn Fein's MPs are not paid.

Factfile

Jim Shannon was elected to Parliament as MP for Strangford at the 2010 General Election, receiving nearly 15,000 votes. He served as MLA for the area between 1998 and 2010, stepping down after he was elected to Parliament. Mr Shannon was first elected to Ards Borough Council in 1985 and served as mayor in 1991/92.

Belfast Telegraph

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