MP hits out after repaying expenses
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has repaid £3,000.72 in "wrongfully made" travel expense claims, but blamed watchdog Ipsa for a "technical breach" in paying out on the receipts in the first place.
The Mid Bedfordshire MP faced three allegations she had wrongfully claimed expenses relating to her second home in London, surrounding utility bills, use of the property and the number of return journeys made to her constituency while also claiming for rent in the capital.
Ipsa (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) agreed Ms Dorries had not sought to profit from the expenses system and did not formally find against the MP for her claims for rent or bills.
But Ms Dorries did not contest the claim that daily return trips to her constituency home - explained as being for family reasons, including illness and an elderly dog - were personal rather than related to Parliamentary business.
A provisional Ipsa report concluded the travel claims were "wrongfully made and should not have been allowed" but that it would be "disproportionate" to make any conclusions about further issues.
Ms Dorries has repaid the money relating to travel claims but in a statement posted on her website she laid the blame for the claims at the watchdog's door, insisting any overpayments were due to a "technical breach which was Ipsa's fault".
"They were wrongfully claimed on Ipsa's explicit instructions to claim and then wrongfully paid by Ipsa," she said.
Ms Dorries claimed that Ipsa had failed to pay her £6,000 of salary - and failed to mention this in today's report - blaming "total incompetence" at the organisation.
The Tory MP said the investigation had also been used as an excuse by her party to delay reinstating the whip following her suspension from the Conservative Parliamentary Party after an appearance on ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!. Her statement said: "I am sure it is just a coincidence that, as the pressure began to mount for my whip to be returned after three months of suspension, wham, I surprisingly had an investigation in process."
Following publication of the report, an Ipsa spokesman said: "As part of the regular review of all MPs' claims, Ipsa's internal assurance function found that Nadine Dorries MP's pattern of travel and accommodation claims were unusual, and were referred to the compliance officer for investigation. The compliance officer for Ipsa has concluded his investigation into claims made by Ms Dorries for accommodation and travel and subsistence under the third and fourth editions of the scheme."