MP warns expenses shame will get worse

THE furore over MP s expenses will deepen if the can of worms over mortgage and rent claims is opened following the audit into claims in the last four years. Top politicians in north west London have been vocal in their condemnation of inappropriate cla

THE furore over MP's expenses will deepen if the 'can of worms' over mortgage and rent claims is opened following the audit into claims in the last four years.

Top politicians in north west London have been vocal in their condemnation of inappropriate claims, but say the letters sent to MPs following the audit carried out by Sir Thomas Legg may spark a probe into claims of bigger sums of money.

MPs received letters from Sir Thomas and were asked to pay back money where it was thought inappropriate or excessive claims had been made through the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA).

Andy Slaughter, MP for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush, who has never clamed ACA, said: "Legg has gone back and said rule X should have been applied so it has opened up all sorts of possibilities.


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"I think it may well be that Legg is applying rules in a way that is arbitrary and unfair, but I suspect that MPs are going to have to lump it. I think people have had enough.

"As soon as you open the can of worms it can go much further. Fortunately I made the decision that it's an inappropriate expense so I did not claim."

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When MPs 2005-06 and 2006-07 expenses were published in June, Dawn Butler, assistant Labour chief whip and Brent South MP, was revealed as having claimed �3,458 for new bathroom and central heating for her house after grabbing �21,803 from 2006-2007 for a second home she bought in Monks Park, Wembley.

But Ms Butler's spokeswoman issued a blunt response when the Times called her Parliamentary office: "I have not been asked to repay any of my claims."

Barry Gardiner, Brent North MP, who received a letter, said he was advised that he should have deducted �174.17 more than he had already from allowances before the 2005 General Election.

Mr Gardiner said: "While I am annoyed that the Fees Office calculation was incorrect on this matter, I consider that the outcome of the Legg investigation shows clearly, as I have always maintained, that I acted at all times within both the letter and the spirit of the regulations."

Karen Buck, MP for Regent's Park and Kensington North who did not claim ACA, said: "I am absolutely clear on this - there are some Members of Parliament whose claims were absolutely outrageous. It's right they should be made to repay and suffer the consequences."

Sarah Teather, MP for Brent East said: "I have never claimed for a second home. It would have been totally outrageous for me to do so, not to mention a gross betrayal of the trust of local people. I live in Willesden Green and travel to work by tube, just like my constituents.

"Time and time again I have voted for the reform of parliament, and even tabled a motion against London MPs' second homes long before the current scandal. I hope that all MPs have finally woken up to this outrage and will now join me in fighting for change."

Greg Hands, MP for Hammersmith and Fulham said: "I don't have a taxpayer funded second home and I have not received a letter from Sir Thomas Legg.

"This is the solution proposed by the Prime Minister and David Cameron has said all the Conservative MPs must pay back what they owe and I am sure that's the right approach."

Mark Fields, MP for Cities of London and Westminster, a longstanding critic of the system who cannot claim the ACA, said: "I believe that MPs have some valid concerns about retrospective actions taken in relation to open and transparent claims that have been signed off by the fees office.

"But the public will have little sympathy with such pleas when they come from a parliament that has denied such natural justice to countless businesses and individuals through the ruthless use of retrospective tax legislations over the past 12 years."

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, PM for Kensington and Chelsea, said he had not received a letter because he did not claim ACA.

Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Highgate, said as an inner London MP she did not claim the expenses that were looked at.

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