PM repays £500 claimed for summer house painting

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has paid back £500 he claimed in expenses for the painting of a second home summer house after deciding it could be "questionable", he said today.



The Prime Minister volunteered to hand the cash back to the taxpayer several weeks ago ahead of the official publication today of last year's claims by MPs.

Although the claim was within the rules and was not questioned by Sir Thomas Legg's review, Mr Brown said he had decided the money should go back.

"I volunteered to do that. I looked through my expenses. I said I don't want to claim for anything that is in any way questionable. Nobody asked me to do that," he said.

Documentation relating to claims made during the last financial year, including the summer house decoration, was uploaded on to the parliamentary website.

A spokesman for Mr Brown said the structure was more "a building in his garden" which he used as a home office than a traditional summer house.

Hundreds of thousands of receipts were published today, relating to claims for staying away from an MPs' "main" home.

They 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.

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

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

Senior MPs had initially planned to withhold the headline figures until after an extensive process of repayments, following the audit by former mandarin Sir Thomas, could be taken into account once completed in January.

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, although there were also claims for phone bills, gas, electricity, heating oil, insurance and council tax.

The papers show that the Tory leader and the Prime Minister both fell foul of new rules requiring receipts to be submitted for any items over £25.

Mr Brown was asked by the Commons authorities to provide documentary proof of a £99 claim for Sky TV, while Mr Cameron's £194 claim for a utility bill was deducted because he had not supplied supporting documentation.

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.

Today's papers show that Speaker John Bercow 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 the 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.

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 PAAE in 2009/10.

Receipts for married Tory MPs Andrew MacKay and Julie Kirkbride show that Mr MacKay claimed £6,000 for redecoration of their second home in 2008.

This included £3,400 for applying masonry paint to stonework, cleaning down railings and painting woodwork. Some £2,600 was spent on scaffolding.

Ms Kirkbride, MP for Bromsgrove, claimed £175 for an "extending mirror" from a department store in Sloane Square, London. She also claimed £50 a month for a cleaner.

Mr MacKay, MP for Bracknell, resigned as Mr Cameron's parliamentary private aide after it was disclosed the couple had effectively been claiming second home allowance for mortgage interest payments on two properties - one in London and one in the Midlands.

Ms Kirkbride has said she will stand down at the next election, although recent reports suggest she has changed her mind.

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 disclosure 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 Brentford and Isleworth, 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.

Shadow Europe minister Mark Francois claimed for an array of snacks in June last year including several Pot Noodles, a pack of Haribo sweets, a tube of Pringles, a Bounty and a Picnic bar.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove submitted a claim for £59.54 spent at homeware store Robert Dyas. Items purchased in May 2008 included two polka dot mugs at £1.99 each and two Brampton plugs costing £6.48.

James Arbuthnot, Tory chairman of the Defence Select Committee, claimed for three "Genius four-piece garlic peeling and cutting sets" costing £43.56 from the QVC shopping channel.

Another claim made by Mr Arbuthnot was £451.88 for the replacement of an electric clutch and blade bearings, along with labour costs, on a Westwood lawn mower.

Deputy Speakers Sir Michael Lord and Sir Alan Haselhurst each spent an average of £300 a month on gardening at their second homes.

Sir Alan, Tory MP for Saffron Walden, also spent £135 to remove the branch of a weeping willow over his driveway.

Sir Michael, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, claimed a one-off payment of £140 to have his chimney swept and a subsequent £2,500 for chimney repairs.

Deputy Speaker Sylvia Heal, Labour MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, spent £417 on tiling the kitchen floor, repairs to the kitchen sink and fitting a new electric shower in November last year.

Total figures released by the Commons showed that 60 MPs claimed the maximum £24,060 in Additional Costs Allowance for second homes in 2008/9.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne was among those who received the maximum last year, the figures showed, along with Labour former deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Two MPs whose cases were among the most notorious revealed by the Daily Telegraph also appeared on the list of top claimers.

They were Tory Sir Peter Viggers, whose claim for a floating duck house became a symbol of the scandal and forced him to end his Commons career, and Labour's David Chaytor, whose claims for a mortgage which had already been paid off are believed to be among files sent by Scotland Yard to prosecutors.

The files showed Mr Osborne tried to claim more than the maximum and had to be informed by the House authorities that some of his final submission would not be paid.

The bulk of his claims were for mortgage interest, but in March he asked the taxpayer to pay a £186.72 bill for oil and £654.91 for home insurance.

He was informed by letter that "unfortunately there are insufficient funds available in your allowance" and that he would get only £790.56.

Of the 587 MPs who made a claim on the Additional Cost Allowance last year, the smallest listed was £38.70 from the Labour MP for Crawley, Laura Moffatt.

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