Ten members of David Cameron's shadow Cabinet agreed last night to repay a total of £17,430 in expenses after being accused of over-claiming by an independent audit.
The Tory leader acted swiftly after MPs received letters from Sir Thomas Legg setting out his initial findings on their claims over the past five years. Although three shadow ministers are challenging his verdict, most fell into line to help Mr Cameron's attempts to display strong leadership on the issue.
Last night's repayments are on top of more than £18,000 returned to the Commons by eight shadow Cabinet members after details of the claims by all MPs from 2004-08 were leaked in May.
Patrick McLoughlin, who is in charge of discipline as Tory chief whip, will pay back £4,058 he claimed for cleaning and his mortgage. Kenneth Clarke, the shadow Business Secretary and former Chancellor, will return £4,733 for gardening and cleaning and the shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, will refund £2,700 in mortgage payments.
Caroline Spelman, the shadow Communities Secretary, will pay back £2,400, of which £1,800 relates to a mobile phone bill which the Commons Fees Office ruled wrongly could be claimed under the "second homes" allowance.
Cheryl Gillan, the shadow Welsh Secretary, will repay £1,884 in mortgage claims; Owen Patterson, the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, will return £911 for repairs and mortgage payments; William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, will repay £642 in mortgage claims; Oliver Letwin, the Tories' policy chief, will hand back £642 for a burst water tank he could have claimed under his home insurance policy; the party chairman, Eric Pickles, £300 for cleaning and the shadow Commons Leader, Sir George Young, £104 for utilities bills.
Three other shadow ministers – Liam Fox, Andrew Mitchell and David Mundell – are questioning Sir Thomas's repayment demands but are expected to reach agreement with him soon. Tory officials said the shadow Cabinet had all agreed to abide by his final ruling.
Mr Cameron made clear he would not allow any of his MPs to defy the final demands from the Legg review. He said: "In the end, if people are asked to pay back money and if the authorities determine that money should be paid back and they don't pay it back, in my view, they can't stand as Conservative MPs."
Eight other senior Tories, including Mr Cameron and the shadow Chancellor George Osborne, have been asked to submit further information to the Legg review but have not been told to make any repayments. The others are Chris Grayling, Greg Clark, David Willetts, Francis Maude, Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Grieve.