Salmond questioned over claim for legal fees

The parliamentary Standards Commissioner has asked Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, to explain why he claimed £790 of public money towards the legal costs of trying to impeach Tony Blair.

In 2004, Scottish and Welsh nationalist MPs tried to force the then prime minister from office, accusing him of misleading Parliament over the war in Iraq. The Standards Commissioner, John Lyon, has accepted a complaint from the Labour peer Lord Foulkes, who accuses Mr Salmond of "outrageous" behaviour. During the MPs' expenses controversy last month, it emerged that taxpayers were charged more than £14,000 for legal advice about impeaching Mr Blair. The bill was split between Scottish and Welsh nationalist MPs, and Mr Salmond claimed for his £790 share.

Lord Foulkes complained to the Commissioner that public money should not be used for "party political" purposes. Mr Lyon, who is already looking into several MPs' expenses claims, said he had written to Mr Salmond "inviting his comments". "Once I receive his response, I shall consider how best to proceed," he added.

Lord Foulkes said: "The issue is not about whether the Iraq war was right or wrong. It's not even about whether the impeachment action was right or wrong. It's about whether legal advice about it should be paid for by the taxpayer out of Mr Salmond's office costs allowance." A spokesman for the SNP leader said the expenses incurred in supporting the impeachment process were "entirely legitimate" and called Lord Foulkes's complaint a "stunt".

*The London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has dismissed as "chicken feed" the £250,000 a year he earns from his part-time job as columnist for The Daily Telegraph. Mr Johnson, who earns nearly £140,000 for his day job, insisted it was "wholly reasonable" for him to write columns on the side because he did them "very fast" and gave £50,000 a year of his fee to charity.