Four MPs claim almost �300k expenses

FOUR Suffolk MPs claimed a total of nearly �300,000 in expenses over a four-year period, it can be revealed today.

Graham Dines

FOUR Suffolk MPs claimed a total of nearly �300,000 in expenses over a four-year period, it can be revealed today.

The figures were revealed as the controversy over MPs' expenses rages on, with the Speaker, Michael Martin, calling leaders of the main political parties to a crisis meeting over the issue.

Four Suffolk MPs have responded to a request for them to provide full details of their expenses claims - Chris Mole (Ipswich), Richard Spring (West Suffolk), David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds), and Tim Yeo (South Suffolk).


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Between them, the four MPs claimed a total of �291,250 in expenses in four financial years.

The total included Mr Spring claiming �17,000 for food in that period, Mr Ruffley being paid �4,400 for furniture at his new Suffolk flat, and Mr Mole claiming �1,100 for a TV, but only receiving the maximum allowance of �750.

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There is no suggestion that any of the Suffolk MPs have broken any of the rules governing MPs' expenses claims, but the details are certain to fuel debate about the need to reform the current system.

- What do you think of the situation? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

CHRIS MOLE

When first elected to the Commons as Labour MP for Ipswich at a by-election in 2001, Mr Mole rented a flat.

In 2004, he moved to another flat which he had bought in Westminster valued at �218,000 with a variable rate mortgage of �196,174. Under the second homes allowance scheme, he was allowed to claim stamp duty, land registry, local authority search and legal fees.

Along with all MPs, he is entitled to claim the interest only element of the mortgage, utility bills, council tax, telephone, maintenance, repairs, insurance, security and food. He was able to claim a fridge and washer-dryer from the public purse.

However, he ran foul of the fees office in the Commons when he tried to claim �1,100 for an HD television for his new flat and he was granted the maximum of �750.

Mr Mole was reimbursed when he claimed �269.99 for light fittings for his new flat in Westminster.

He said: “Sadly the previous owner was one of those who strip out the light bulbs as they go!”

TIM YEO

Mr Yeo, Conservative MP for Suffolk South, made mortgage, maintenance and cleaning claims on his second property in his constituency, but unlike his other colleagues in the county, he did not claim for any food.

He is currently abroad on parliamentary duty, but said last night he regarded his expenses as reasonable because he had to run two homes.

RICHARD SPRING

When Mr Spring, Tory MP for Suffolk West, moved house in his constituency, he was allowed to make claims for legal fees and other costs associated with buying another property.

He said: “There are solicitor's and architect's fees and also an arrangement figure for the mortgage on the property. I was reimbursed for a security alarm for the cottage.”

Mr Spring also claimed for hardware and also some plants for his new home.

The MP has long supported a system which would increase the pay of MPs but which would mean that second home allowances would be abolished.

He has on average in the past four years claimed in excess of �4,000 a year for food, and said he recognised the public was angry at what had, until now, been secret payments.

Mr Spring added: “I support a fixed payment for MPs and some reimbursement for travel - and nothing else.

“If an MP wants a second home either in the capital or the constituency, then that should be their problem and they should not depend on the cost allowance system to oblige them.”

His mortgage payments increased from �2,900 in 2004-5 to �17, 368.47 in 2007-8.

DAVID RUFFLEY

Suffolk's MP for Bury St Edmunds was singled out by the Sunday Telegraph for making exceptional claims.

Mr Ruffley, who is also shadow police minister, has a property in London and a home in the constituency.

The newspaper said he had claimed for his Suffolk home �1,674 for a sofa and �2,175 for a 46in Sony widescreen HD television, bought from Harrods in London.

The paper said the Commons authorities reduced the claim for the TV because it exceeded guideline figures of �750 issued to MPs.

Mr Ruffley issued the following statement: “Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and Needham Market have excellent retailers and I buy from them most of the time.

“But when I needed the items for my constituency rented property, I was busy in the House of Commons and I therefore ordered from a London department store. That was the only reason I was not able to support local retailers in my constituency on this occasion, and I offer them an unconditional apology for that.

“I fully accept that the TV and bed were expensive and that is why I paid out of my own pocket - not the taxpayer's - two-thirds of the cost of the TV and 70 per cent of the bed.”

He said he shared the I grave public concern and anger about the MPs' expenses system and said the current system must be scrapped as soon as possible.

In 2007, when Mr Ruffley joined David Cameron's shadow ministerial team, he changed his main home from his constituency property to his London flat for the purposes of claiming the second home allowance.

He said: “I was under a duty to designate London as my main home because my Shadow Ministerial duties meant that I was spending much more time in London. This resulted in me actually claiming less from the taxpayer, not more. That is why in 2006-7 I was 461st out of 645 MPs for claiming the second home allowance. In 2007-8 I was 511th out of 645 MPs for claiming that allowance.”

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