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Northern Ireland MPs claim £171,000 expenses in six months

By Sam Lister

The expenses bill for Northern Ireland’s Westminster politicians totalled £171,000 for the last six months of 2009, House of Commons records have revealed.

Parliamentary officials have released the latest batch of detailed claims made by every MP, though this time round the documents contain far fewer shocking purchases as they were made after the expenses scandal erupted last year.

First Minister Peter Robinson and wife Iris were dubbed the “swish family Robinson” in recent years for the allowances and salaries the pair claimed.

Their latest claims came to £18,364, which includes accommodation, office, communications and incidental expenses between July and December last year.

Both of the former MPs put in a bill for £4,361.25 on the same day for mortgage interest — MPs are allowed to submit bills at anytime during the year — which works out to a monthly bill for the period of £1,453.

Among other claims Iris Robinson put in for was £37.91 to pay Banner Business Supplies for office refreshments while her husband claimed £83.90 on memory sticks in December.

David Simpson, Upper Bann, claimed a total of £10,199.74, including three payments totalling £312.80 to Micro Computer Solutions for email settings configuration and account upgrading.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson’s six-month tally came to £8,380.98, while William McCrea’s had the highest claims. His bill came to £24,689.34, of which more than £16,000 went on office rent.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds claimed a total of £10,267.87, including £195 payable to himself, to cover bills for office cleaning costs on November 3 last year.

On the same date he also submitted £39 for a taxi fare and other claims include £70 on window blinds for his office, £200 on petty cash, £180.29 for “janitorial” services from Belfast City Council for trade waste disposal and £1,265 to Direct IT Marketing to design a website.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan claimed a total £21,262.05 including £225 for subsistence. At the time MPs were entitled to a flat rate of £25 for every night spent away from their main home.

Party colleagues Alasdair McDonnell claimed £11,639.72 which included a Royal Mail bill for £1,390.35 for door to door deliveries, while the now retired Eddie McGrady claimed £18,635.35, which covered hotel costs, as well as £275 on subsistence.

Office rent claims were submitted by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness for £9,420 and Michelle Gildernew for £4,500.

Lady Hermon, MP for North Down, was paid £3,503 which covered five nights’ accommodations in hotels for the six-month period.

Former First Minister Ian Paisley’s total was £8,270.95. Gregory Campbell, East Londonderry, claimed a total of £8,731.73, including £300 petty cash, while Jeffrey Donaldson spent a total of £14,008.67, which included £39.63 on hand towels for his office.

Nationally, MPs claimed £10,054,521.97, which indicates that MPs' spending dropped significantly after the expenses scandal broke last spring. By comparison, the database shows that in the second and third quarters of 2008/9 a total of £11,768,749.14 was claimed.

David Cameron — then Opposition leader — claimed £12,978.88 in the last six months of 2009. That included £8,205.53 in costs for running his constituency home in Witney.

His monthly council tax bill was around £208, and his monthly mortgage interest bill went down from £1,081 to £822. Mr Cameron's home insurance cost the taxpayer some £71 a month.

The data shows that then Prime Minister Gordon Brown ran up a bill of £15,147.84 on rent and running costs for the office supporting his MP duties.

Mr Brown stopped claiming for personal accommodation last July following criticism that he was living rent-free in Downing Street, and so did not need a second home.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg — now Deputy PM — claimed £13,639.35 over the period, with £2,187.94 for personal accommodation, including monthly mortgage interest of around £155 and £177 council tax.

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