Region's MPs claim more than �250,000 for second homes

MPs in Suffolk and north Essex last year claimed more than a quarter of a million pounds for second homes as the spotlight once again fell on the discredited expenses and allowances at Westminster.

Graham Dines

MPs in Suffolk and north Essex last year claimed more than a quarter of a million pounds for second homes as the spotlight once again fell on the discredited expenses and allowances at Westminster.

The House of Commons authorities yesterday released details of all the 2008-9 claims by MPs for their second homes, which can be either in London or in the constituency.

None of the region's MPs “flipped” their homes - that is changing the designation of their main property to avoid capital gains tax.


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There were, however, a number of individual claims which could spark a new wave of voter unhappiness. It follows the uproar when details of previous years' claims were published earlier this year, after which a number of MPs repaid money.

Among the more outlandish claims were �20 from Saffron Walden Tory Sir Alan Haselhurst for strawberry plants; an ironing board cover and a �4.95 low energy light bulb for Bob Blizzard (Labour, Waveney); �80 for moth repellent for David Ruffley (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds), and �58.67 for a large whistling kettle for Harwich's Tory MP Douglas Carswell, the MP who led the call for the reform of the system.

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Four MPs claimed the maximum possible cash under the allowance scheme of �24,006 - Tim Yeo (Conservative, South Suffolk), Mr Blizzard, Bernard Jenkin (Conservative, North Essex) and Mr Carswell.

East of England minister Barbara Follett, who represents Stevenage and is married to the millionaire author Ken Follett, claimed for an automatic plant watering system. She submitted two bills totalling �219, including the cost of the congestion charge and the parking fee paid by the workman who installed it.

Defending his claim, Mr Carswell said: “When I entered Parliament, I decided to rent a constituency home rather than buy it.

“This means I will make no money from property price inflation - when I hand back the keys, I'll walk away with no profit. However, I obviously have to furnish the house and that's why I have claimed for essential furnishings and kitchen items.”

Richard Spring, who is retiring as MP for West Suffolk at the general election, said voters needed to appreciate that it was essential for an MP to have a base in the constituency and one in London. Only the very the very rich could afford to buy two home and therefore it was right that a system of reimbursement was in place, he said.

Mr Carswell said: “I have been a champion of transparency over MPs' expenses. The proof of that is my having this conversation with you now.”

Under the area cost adjustment, MPs are allowed to claim for a second home, which should be either in London or in or close to the constituency.

The scheme was designed to compensate MPs for the cost of living in London during the week and then spending weekends and free time in the constituency.

For this designated home, they are allowed to claim for mortgage or rent and leasehold costs, all utility bills, television licences, and household essentials such as white goods and televisions. All these must be accompanied by receipts.

MPs are allowed �40 a week for food, which is paid without receipts.

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