MPs' expenses claims published online

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Indy Politics

MPs' second home expenses claims came under fresh scrutiny today as Commons authorities published hundreds of thousands of new receipts.

Documentation relating to claims made during the last financial year was uploaded on to the parliamentary website.

The papers were edited to cover up sensitive information like account numbers, addresses and signatures, but were not as heavily "redacted" as those released earlier this year in swathes of black ink.

Today's release covers claims for costs incurred when staying away from the MPs' main home in 2008/09 and the first quarter of 2009/10 - initially under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance and then under the Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure which replaced it in April this year.

After an 11th-hour U-turn, the totals claimed by each MP in 2008/9 and the first quarter of 2009/10 will be published later today.

Senior MPs had initially planned to withhold the headline figures until after an extensive process of repayments had been completed in January.

That would allow any repayments made following an audit by former mandarin Sir Thomas Legg to be taken into account.

That idea was attacked yesterday by Tory leader David Cameron, who insisted the totals had to be published to show the public that politicians "get" the need for transparency.

The Members Estimate Committee, which is chaired by Speaker John Bercow and runs House affairs, decided later to publish the global figures after all.

A spokeswoman acknowledged that the move would be more transparent. Revised figures, taking repayments into account, will be released in January.



The receipts published straddle the period - beginning in May this year - during which the Daily Telegraph published details of previous claims, sparking massive controversy.

It is thought likely that the new papers may reflect a new mood of caution among MPs in the months following the scandal.

No new receipts were immediately released relating to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose entry on the parliamentary website ends at 2007/08.

Today's papers show that Mr Bercow himself claimed a total of £22,465.49 in ACA in 2008/09, for mortgage interest, council tax, gas, electricity and cleaning on his second home.

However, under the PAAE claim for 2009/10, which covers to period from April to June this year, there is only one claim of £500 for utilities. Mr Bercow said when he was elected Speaker in June that he would no longer claim second home allowance.

The papers show that the Buckingham MP was twice chased up by Commons authorities for documentation to support his claims.

In May he was asked to provide a receipt to back up a £95 claim for a service charge, as new rules required receipts for all expenditure over £25. And he was later asked to provide a mortgage interest statement, as his most recent one dated back to 2005.



Each claim for ACA includes a signed statement from the MPs confirming that spending was "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred to enable you to stay overnight away from your only or main home for the purpose of performing your parliamentary duties".

The new papers show claims by Conservative leader David Cameron totalling £20,240.15 for ACA in 2008/09 and £3,066.91 in 2009/10.

The bulk of Mr Cameron's claims were made up by the £1,081 monthly mortgage interest payment on his second home, though there were also claims for phone bills, gas, electricity, heating oil, insurance and council tax.

The papers show that the Tory leader was caught out in September 2008 by the new rules requiring receipts for claims over £25, as his £194 claim for a utility bill was deducted because he had not supplied supporting documentation. The sum was later paid in full.



Foreign Secretary David Miliband received a reminder notice from South Tyneside Council for failing to keep up his monthly council tax payments.

He was warned that he faced recovery proceedings for the full outstanding balance of £685.44 unless he paid the overdue sum of £64.44 within seven days.



The papers show that married Cabinet couple Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper refunded a total of £2,700 in mortgage interest claimed for their London home.

The Schools Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary had claimed £22,000 - £1,000 a month each - but wrote to Commons authorities after falling interest rates reduced their mortgage bill.

It meant they claimed £19,300 in mortgage interest under ACA in 2008/09, along with £1,889.73 in council tax, £900 for electricity, £299.40 for an alarm system, £364 for water bills and £926.10 in home insurance - a total of £23,679.23.

The papers also show neither MP has so far submitted claims under under PAAE in 2009/10.





Tory MP Douglas Hogg, whose bill for moat-clearing came to symbolise the expenses scandal, switched the designation of his second home in 2008 from his Lincolnshire manor house to a property in London.

In addition to what he described as "core expenses" of £1,091.42 a month - including £759 service charges and £40 a week for cleaning - he put in a series of claims for household items.

These included £20 for a toaster, £19 for low-energy lightbulbs, £4.99 for weedkiller, and £2.99 for refuse bags.



Former home secretary Jacqui Smith's receipts include those for a £555.74 television, a £244.90 DVD player and £611 spent on a new double bed and mattress.

The purchases were made in January this year, two months before the public revelation that the taxpayer had paid for adult films watched by her husband, Richard Timney.

Ms Smith repaid the money spent on the films which appeared on receipts submitted by Mr Timney himself, who works for his wife.

There was also a £136 claim for coal for the couple's family home in the MP's Redditch constituency on which the taxpayer met the £1,000 monthly mortgage interest bill.

The standards watchdog ruled earlier this year that she had been wrong to count the house as her second home while listing as her main residence a room in her sister's house in London.

She insisted, however, that she had been poorly advised by the Commons authorities.



The couple nicknamed Mr and Mrs Expenses - Alan and Ann Keen - were asked to repay £353.41 after overclaiming for service charges on their London flat.

Health Minister Mrs Keen, MP for Isleworth and Middlesex, and Feltham and Heston MP Mr Keen also claimed mortgage interest, ground rent, council tax and telephone costs under ACA - despite their constituencies being less than an hour from Westminster.

Neither MP has so far claimed under PAAE in 2009-10.



Congleton MP Ann Winterton's claims include a receipt for £940 from a Chelsea-based antiques transportation firm.

The bill, for "removal charges", was presented to Commons authorities in August when Lady Winterton and husband Sir Nicholas, MP for Macclesfield, moved out of a London flat which was owned by a trust controlled by their children.

The Tory couple, who are not standing for re-election, were criticised by a parliamentary watchdog over the arrangement last year.

Lady Winterton's claims also include £80-a-month charges for cleaning and £10 a month for window cleaning at the old property.

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