Auditor under renewed fire over MPs' expenses

The auditor of MPs' expenses came under renewed fire today as it emerged that a number of his demands for repayment had been overturned on appeal.

Tory MP Roger Gale announced that he had been cleared after contesting Sir Thomas Legg's assertion that he had wrongly claimed thousands of pounds.



The Thanet North MP was among 80 who appealed to Sir Paul Kennedy, a former appeal court judge, because they felt that Sir Thomas's demands were unjustified.



Others who have been cleared by Sir Paul include Liberal Democrat frontbencher Jeremy Browne and, reportedly, Labour MP Ann Cryer.



Another Labour backbencher, Dennis Skinner, said today that Sir Thomas had offered him an "unreserved apology" after mistakenly asking the veteran MP to pay back about £5,000.



Mr Gale was ordered last October to hand back around £2,100 for mobile phone bills and £370 in rent for a London flat.



He insisted that his mobile claims were "permissible" under the rules at the time they were made and that the rent demand was made under the mistaken impression he had double-claimed.



Mr Gale said today he had received a letter from Sir Paul, who was appointed to hear appeals amid uproar at Sir Thomas's rulings last year, saying his appeal had been upheld.



"I'm gratified that Sir Paul Kennedy has done thoroughly and very carefully the job that I had hoped and expected that Sir Thomas Legg was going to do," he said.



He stressed that he had told Sir Paul, in his initial letter, that he would abide by his adjudication and pay back the money if he insisted.



Mr Skinner today disclosed the contents of a letter he had received from Sir Thomas last year after the MP challenged the former Whitehall mandarin's repayment demands.



"This should not have happened and I want to lose no time in offering an unreserved apology," Sir Thomas wrote to the Bolsover MP.



The auditor had asked him to pay back money towards a £9,280 kitchen, an £880 sofa bed - specially adapted because of the MP's illness - and cleaning costs.



Mr Skinner, 77, said Sir Thomas relented when he proved that he had already covered about 70% of the kitchen and half of the sofa bed, and that the auditor had double-counted his claims for cleaning.



"Since I have been in the bottom three for expenses claims for six years and I have the best voting record, even at my age, naturally I was a bit upset when I saw what he was saying and I knew all these things were wrong," he said.



"I knew he was wrong as soon as I saw his (initial) letter, I thought it was a funny process when he's put three items down and it's all wrong."



Mr Skinner said he had never even claimed for the mortgage on his second home.



After auditing all MPs' expenses between 2004 and 2008, Sir Thomas last year instructed about 200 MPs to return hundreds of thousands of pounds in "excessive" second home claims.



But he infuriated many by imposing retrospective rules and limits for reasonable spending on activities such as gardening and cleaning.



Other MPs who are known to have appealed to Sir Paul include Labour's Frank Field and Frank Cook and Tory Bernard Jenkin.



The official publication of the Legg review's findings - following the Kennedy appeals process - will not be published until next Thursday.



Mr Browne, a Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, disclosed last night that Sir Paul had determined that his second home claims were fair after all.



The Taunton MP had been told to hand back £17,894.24 after Sir Thomas decided he should not have claimed a higher amount in second home allowance after remortgaging.



In a letter to the MP, Sir Paul said it was clear to him Mr Browne had acted "openly and honestly" and his claims were for "the very purpose" the second home allowance was designed for.



Mr Browne said: "I am pleased and relieved to have had my appeal accepted in full.



"I have always maintained that I behaved properly when I used my own money to buy a home in Taunton and rejected alternative arrangements that would have actually cost the taxpayer more.



"My name has been cleared and my reputation restored with the confirmation by Sir Paul Kennedy that I acted 'openly and honestly'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine