Tory MPs paying back £250,000 expenses

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Indy Politics

Tory MPs have agreed to repay a further £125,247 to Commons authorities after a party investigation, leader David Cameron said today.

This is over and above a similar amount already paid back. In addition, the party said its MPs had agreed to forgo future second home allowances totalling £100,000.

"Conservative MPs have responded in a positive way and shown a real desire to take the lead on this damaging issue," Mr Cameron said.

"It is an effort - both collectively as a party and individually as Conservative MPs - to address the public's anger about what has happened."

Mr Cameron said the party had gone beyond Labour and the Liberal Democrats in considering whether claims had been "disproportionate" and not just whether they fell within the rules.

He said the agreement of a particular MP to make a repayment did not indicate guilt or a breach of the rules.

"Many MPs need to be able to live in London and in their constituencies to do their job properly, and the vast majority of MPs do an excellent job. But we recognise public anger about expenses, and we have a duty to listen and respond to it. That is what this is about," he said.

He acknowledged that the scrutiny panel process was not perfect and warned it may throw up some "inconsistencies".

"In some cases it may have been too tough. In others, some may feel it has not been tough enough. We had a small team. This was not a forensic accounting examination. The House of Commons examination may pick up issues which we have not," he said.

"This is just one step - of many - that needs to be taken to restore both some trust and some faith in the political system.

"Step by step, brick by brick, we can and we will fix our political system."

The biggest single sum repaid was £25,000 by shadow justice minister Eleanor Laing - with no details given of what the claim or claims had originally been for.

The MP for Epping Forest had not previously repaid any cash to the Commons authorities, according to the list supplied by the Tories.

She had, however, been at the centre of a storm over capital gains tax when it was revealed that she made a reported £1 million profit on the sale of a second home, which she "flipped" to her main residence.

Bill Cash, MP for Stone, agreed to repay the £15,000 second home allowance he controversially claimed to pay his daughter for renting her London flat, while his son lived in the MP's own apartment.

Bournemouth West MP Sir John Butterfill is to pay back a further £14,478, having already repaid £3,000, according to the Conservatives.

He had reportedly claimed for the upkeep of his servants' quarters.

Ex-minister John Gummer is to repay £11,538 received for gardening and household expenses, half of his 2007-08 allowance claim.

He hit the headlines when the Daily Telegraph said he had claimed for removing moles from his garden.

And Gosport MP Sir Peter Viggers - who notoriously had a claim for a floating duck house rejected - is to repay £10,000 in claims for garden maintenance and repairs.

The Tories said nine MPs, including former leader Ian Duncan Smith, party grandee Michael Ancram, Mr Gummer and ex-Cabinet minister John Redwood, had voluntarily agreed to forgo all or part of any future second home allowance claims.

The party said the potential claims would have been worth an estimated £108,600.

Earlier, in a speech at Imperial College, London, Mr Cameron said: "This is not about MPs that broke the rules - we all know the rules weren't good enough.

"It's about understanding the level of public anger, about a system that was broken, and the part we played in it. It's not good enough just to sort out the rules for the future - we need to recognise the mistakes of the past.

"And these payments are an important part of that. This is just one step - of many - that needs to be taken to restore both some trust and some faith in the political system."

The Tory leader added: "It's about having to recognise and somehow atone for the mistakes of the past."

The party said its scrutiny panel had now examined the additional costs allowance - dubbed the second home allowance - claims of all 195 Tory MPs for the years from 2004-5 to 2007-8.

The Conservatives said the claims of 186 MPs had so far been "resolved", resulting in the extra £125,000 paid back. Repayments already made totalled £133,517, said the party.