Some MPs carried on claiming expenses right up until tighter new rules came into force, while others took heed of the public outcry and scaled back their claims in the six months of last year, figures released yesterday showed.
Some of the individual claims put in were so trivial that it is a mystery why they bothered. Included in David Cameron's claims is an invoice from a stationery supplier, for 24p.
Matching that was an invoice from the Business Secretary Ken Clarke for 48p to cover “incidentals”.
The millionaire Prime Minister’s other claims were not so trivial. In total, they came to £13,188.80 for six months, including £8,205.53 towards the mortgage on his second home in Witney.
Under the new rules, MPs cannot now claim for mortgages on their second homes, but only for rent, depriving them of a nice earner. The Tory MP for Billericay, John Baron, recently sold his taxpayer subsidised three bedroom house for around £250,000. He calculated that after capital gains tax and other costs, he had made a £60,000 profit – which he has decided to give to charity.
George Osborne, the Chancellor who has just given the country an austerity budget that is going to hit almost everyone’s living standards, claimed a total of £14,314.21 in six months, of which £5,990.85 went towards his second home. His Liberal Democrat deputy, Danny Alexander, claimed £28,819.97, including £7,806.25 in mortgage costs.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, claimed £13,639.35 including £2,187.94 off his mortgage, while the man who topped the list of mortgage claimers was the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, who claimed £10,000 in six months.
The overall picture, however, is that the exposure of MPs expenses has saved the taxpayers millions of pounds, and made MPs poorer by the same amount. The total claimed by MPs in six months from July 2009 was £10,054,521.97, compared with nearly £12 million in the previous six months.
Almost all the fall was accounted for lower claims towards the cost of MPs’ second homes – the aspect of their expenses which has caused the greatest amount of controversy. Claims for second homes totalled £3,114,859.68, compared with over £5 million for the previous six months.
Gordon Brown took note of the public mood and stopped claiming anything for accommodation in July, after questions were raised as to why he needed to claim when he had a grace and favour home in Downing Street. His example followed by two of his Cabinet ministers, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett. However, Mr Brown did claim just over £15,000 towards the cost of running his constituency office.
But the former Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth used his second homes allowance to claim £2,700 in subsistence, a category that covers mostly food consumed away from home. He also claimed £334.88 for a chair, and £23.71 for a footrest.
Margaret Moran, the former Luton MP criticised for claiming for dry rot in the home in Southampton that she shared with her partner, submitted invoices for almost for £6,000 in fees paid to a consultancy called Hawks Green, with advises on employment, plus more than £8,000 to another employment consultancy, Pell Wall, and £10,500 for ‘legal support’ to ‘third party individual’
The former Tory MP Anthony Steen, the man who created a public relations disaster for himself by saying that people had criticised his expenses because they were jealous of his large house, claimed nearly £6,000 for advice from the public relations guru Peter Botting.
Alan Duncan, the junior Tory minister who famously complained that MPs were being “forced to live off rations’ claimed £7,500 towards his mortgage.
The veteran Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith claimed £29.30 for repairing a sash cord.- although you can buy a sash cord for £2.99.
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