80 MPs join revolt against ruling to repay expense claims

Scale of rebellion means controversy will drag on until close to election day

Eighty MPs have joined a revolt against demands to repay "excessive" second-homes expense claims over the past five years.

Sir Thomas Legg, the retired civil servant who scrutinised Commons claims, has told some 200 of the 753 MPs he investigated to return money. Nearly half of them are challenging his rulings.

Party leaders have urged MPs to comply with the demands in an effort to wrap up the expenses scandal. The Conservatives will today detail repayments by Shadow Cabinet members.

But the resistance of such large numbers of backbenchers ensures the controversy will drag on until close to polling day.

The scale of the rebellion emerged after the deadline to appeal against Sir Thomas's ruling passed yesterday. Many refuseniks are livid that he arbitrarily imposed a retrospective limit on the amount they could claim for cleaning and gardening expenses. They also argue that their claims were cleared by the Commons authorities.

Eight MPs have confirmed in public that they are contesting the rulings, challenging demands ranging from £260 to £63,250.

Roger Gale, the Tory MP for Thanet North, said yesterday that he was appealing against an instruction to hand back £2,100 for mobile-phone bills and £400 in rent. He accused Sir Thomas of "knowingly releasing false information" about him.

Bernard Jenkin, a former Conservative frontbencher, is disputing £63,250 he claimed for rent on a property owned by his sister-in-law. He said: "I will pay back whatever is finally decided."

The former Labour minister Frank Field is appealing against a demand to repay £5,000 in housekeeping costs and £1,800 in other bills.

Frank Cook, the Labour MP for Stockton North, is challenging a demand to return the £600 cost of a refrigerator.

Patrick Hall, the Labour MP for Bedford, is disputing a "discrepancy" that has led to an instruction to return a £260 mortgage-interest payment.

Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for Keighley, and Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton, are also contesting demands. Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, has filed an "objection" to an instruction to repay £500 in cleaning costs.

* Siôn Simon, the minister for Creative Industries, is to repay up to £21,000 after admitting using his second-homes allowance to rent a London flat from his sister.

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