'Secretly' resolved MP expenses cases revealed
Details of dozens of complaints against MPs that have been "secretly" resolved over recent years were finally published today.
One member quietly repaid £755 claimed on expenses for software that used astrology to diagnose medical conditions, while another handed back costs for maintaining an Aga-style cooker at a house he had rented out.
Under the so-called "rectification" procedure, standards commissioner John Lyon has the power to fast-track investigations when the MP involved admits they have broken rules and he does not regard the matter as too serious.
However, the practice has come under fire because the allegations and his conclusions were not always made public - until now.
Mr Lyon has disclosed that 16 cases were rectified in 2008/9, 14 in 2009/10 and 10 so far in 2010/11.
They include that of Tory MP for Bosworth David Tredinnick, who was subject to a complaint last year that he had spent £755.33 of taxpayers' money on a computer programme providing "interpretations and analyses of a person's condition based on astrology".
Mr Tredinnick argued that the outlay on "Solarfire V" was justified as he had a long-standing interest in astrology and complementary medicine that had been expressed in parliament.
"Solarfire V provides interpretation in both Western and Indian astrology and it is easy to switch between the two systems," he wrote in a letter to the commissioner. "As a result I now have a better understanding of the Indian system of Medicine, Ayurvedic, its definitions of personalities as being Vata or Airy, Kapha or Earthy or Pitta--Fiery types and how these personalities are reflected in Rashi and Navamsha Indian astrological readings.
"I also have a better understanding of how Culpepper linked plants to planets and signs and can check their characteristics using the Western programme in Solarfire V.
"All this information is helpful in discussions and debates in my work in Parliament. I have not yet made a major speech on the subject in the House because of prejudice but one day I will. In discussions I use this information frequently."
But after a lengthy exchange of correspondence with the commissioner, Mr Tredinnick agreed to repay the cash, sparing him a full-blown probe.
Ex-Tory MP for Totnes Anthony Steen - who accused people of being "jealous" of his substantial expenses-funded house in Devon after being criticised for excessive claims last year - was also on the list.
He returned a total of £561, which included a bill for maintenance on a Rayburn range cooker in the rented-out coach house that had been "inadvertently" submitted.
Many of the rectified complaints relate to episodes where MPs have used parliamentary stationery to contact constituents for political purposes, and they often involve small sums of money.
Other cases include:
* Ex-Labour MP Janet Anderson overclaimed petty cash totalling £5,700 between 2005 and 2008, because she did not realise she was not allowed to claim for Westminster office and constituency office;
* Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman handing back £13.20 for prepaid House of Commons envelopes and stationery to send letters to non-constituents;
* Sadiq Khan, now shadow justice secretary, repaying £173 for letters sent to constituents just before the general election campaign began;
* Boris Johnson, now Tory mayor of London, failing to register 33 shares worth £1 each in Finland Station Ltd. The then Henley MP apologised and said he was not "aware that his shares had any pecuniary value";
* Former Lib Dem MP Willie Rennie repaid £2,647 in May this year that he overclaimed for office space and a printing machine that had been shared with his local party.
The commissioner also disclosed for the first time details of his current investigations.
Lib Dem David Laws is still being investigated over the accommodation claims that sparked his resignation as chief secretary to the Treasury.
Ex-Labour MPs Anthony Wright and Margaret Moran are both being probed over expenses claims - with the latter also subject to a police inquiry on separate allowances allegations.
Labour's Andy Slaughter and Simon Danczuk are being examined over use of pre-paid envelopes, and Alison Seabeck over declaration of interests.
Four of Mr Lyon's inquiries into expenses allegations have been suspended while criminal proceedings are considered. They relate to ex-Labour MPs Jim Devine, David Chaytor, and Elliot Morley - who have been charged - and serving Labour MP Denis MacShane - who has not.
A probe into ex-Tory MP David Wilshire's use of allowances has been put on hold because he is unwell.
The commissioner has investigated and rejected 30 complaints against MPs since 2008/09.
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