At least ploughing through the online expenses of Westminster MPs yesterday had an air of finality about it. No-one had to rely on The Daily Telegraph to buy the information on

a dodgy CD, as the parliament had decided to self-publish the information, even if some of it was redacted to ensure privacy and security.

The Government did accept the inevitable and announced that new laws would be introduced so that MPs who abuse their expenses from now on face being fined by the Parliament’s standards watchdog.

Loading article content

The proposals are based on the recommendations by Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who was charged with cleaning up the whole system.

None of it would have happened if freedom of information campaigners like Heather Brooke had not won their battle to have MPs’ expenses published.

The easiest and quickest way to restore the system would be to accept Ms Brooke’s advice for regular, transparent publication of expenses along Holyrood lines that renders the whole process rather boring and dry.

Behind the bulk of expenses all published at once a volume of sinning might have been hidden, but there was still enough embarrassment for some politicians to have to relive the horrors of the duck house summer when all MPs were fair game in the media.

Top of the pile, quite literally, came Quentin Davies, the Defence Procurement Minister, who had apparently claimed for the cost of repairing a bell tower on his constituency mansion. Mr Davies, who defected from the Tories to Labour in 2007, was paid £5376 by the Commons fees office for a £20,000 claim.

He “emphatically” denied trying to claim for the bell tower as part of bill for roof repairs.

“I obtained from the same builder quotations for work on the guttering and to repair the roof, and to repair the bell tower which is a decorative feature on the roof,” he said.

“I accepted his quotes together and he subsequently sent me a single invoice for both jobs. With hindsight, to avoid confusion, I should have asked for separate invoices.

“I did not claim, however, in respect of it and I never had any intention of doing so.”

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown repaid £500 he had claimed to repaint his summer house, even though he had broken no rules.

The release covers claims for costs incurred by MPs staying away from their main homes in 2008/09 and the first quarter of 2009/10 -- initially under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) and then under the Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure (Pace) that replaced it in April this year.

The receipts published straddle the period -- beginning in May this year -- during which The Daily Telegraph published details of previous claims, sparking massive controversy, and many MPs may have been cautious in what they claimed.

The total expenses bill for Scotland’s 59 MPs came to just more than £1 million, which is in line with previous years. There was a four-way tie for the MPs claiming the absolute maximum additional costs allowance of £24,006. Not surprisingly, most of these high claiming MPs represent seats with have rock-solid majorities.

Those with slimmer margins lowered their profiles, willingly dropping to mid-table standings so that their expenses would not become a campaign issue.

Eric Joyce, the notoriously pricey Falkirk MP, surrendered his position as the most expensive politician in Scotland, although a huge muddle over his claims still mired him in controversy. Mr Joyce was strongly criticised by the Fees Office for abusing his House of Commons travel card on journeys to Congo, Kenya and Japan totalling £4985.60. When the apologetic Falkirk MP did not repay the sum, the authorities warned they would deduct it from his regular hotel accommodation claims.

Others were shabby with their claims, too. The files show the SNP’s Angus MacNeil was allowed to submit his expenses forms late, but only after a good old whine that he lived in the Outer Hebrides so it would not be “environmentally sensible” for him to deliver them by hand. However, most MPs and the officials began to exhibit a bit more caution about the business in 2008.

Ian Davidson MP deducted the £62 court summons for late payment from his claim for council tax but that was not enough for the Fees office officials, who also took another £3 off for court cost charges.

Eight Scottish MPs changed the designation of their second home but there is no suggestion that they were involved in flipping, the practice of making one’s second home one’s

primary residence to avoid capital gains tax when it is sold.

Jim Devine MP, who was brought low in the original exposé of expenses, claimed £1350 for a shower replacement and a further £1632 for “repair and dilapidation work” on bathroom some months later. The payments were approved by the Fees Office, as were monthly £628 laundry and dry cleaning bills.

There was some hilarity and irony among the John Lewis linen and Aga heating oil receipts.

Glenrothes new boy Lindsay Roy had a claim for a £24 Babyliss hair­dryer cruelly rejected and the former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, having been stung for two pornographic videos by her husband in the last release of expenses, claimed £555.74 for a television, £244.90 for DVD player and £611 for a new double bed and mattress. She also claimed £136 for coal.

Hundreds of MPs, including the three main UK party leaders, have already agreed to repay sums totalling thousands of pounds from the claims since 2004.

A further list of expenses, minus the repayments MPs have been asked to make by Sir Thomas Legg, who has reviewed their claims going back five years, will be published in January. MPs will not be alone in hoping that the whole saga is over then.

 

The expenses merry-go-round

A selection of some of the oddest MP’s expense claims:

James Arbuthnot submitted a claim for three garlic peelers.

Richard Bacon told the Commons expenses office that his ex-council flat second home was “too expensive” under the new rules and moved out, instead claiming £182.85 per night to stay in a hotel.

Liam Byrne’s claim for an air bed costing £50.92 was rejected.

Ben Chapman claimed for a £449 32in Panasonic LCD TV in June 2008, then £259 for a Samsung 19in TV the following month.

Jacqui Smith submitted claim for adult movies (watched by her husband Richard Timney). For good measure, she put in for a £555.74 widescreen HD TV.

Sir Patrick Cormack lodged a £2.97 claim for a pack of 24 cedar balls and £8.49 for a moth trap in November last year.

Barbara Follett claimed £487.65 for window cleaning and £650 for pest control.

Andrew George’s £9.99 claim for a hairdyer was rebuffed.

Sir Alan Haselhurst claimed £100 for logs and £36 for cleaning a play house.

Lembit Opik got an electrician to make two separate trips, costing £1791.50, from his Wales constituency to fix electrical problems in his London flat.

 RECORD OF EXPENSES TABLE:

 

First name

Name

Constituency

Party

2008 -- 09

Michael

Connarty

Linlithgow & Falkirk East

Labour

24,006.00

Jim

McGovern

Dundee West

Labour

24,006.00

Mohammad

Sarwar

Glasgow Central

Labour

24,006.00

Jim

Sheridan

Paisley & Renfrewshire North

Labour

24,006.00

Brian

Donohoe

Ayrshire Central

Labour

23,995.96

Angus

Robertson

Moray

SNP

23,921.11

Ian

Davidson

Glasgow South West

Labour

23,866.89

Frank

Doran

Aberdeen North

Labour

23,788.56

Thomas

McAvoy

Rutherglen & Hamilton West

Labour

23,757.41

Jim

Devine

Livingston

Labour

23,658.72

Adam

Ingram

East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow

Labour

23,462.81

John

Barrett

Edinburgh West

Lib Dem

23,376.57

Malcolm

Bruce

Gordon

Lib Dem

22,816.42

Anne

Moffat

East Lothian

Labour

22,594.61

Anne

Begg

Aberdeen South

Labour

22,579.42

Rosemary

McKenna

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

Labour

22,040.11

Danny

Alexander

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey

Lib Dem

22,025.41

Stewart

Hosie

Dundee East

SNP

21,962.51

Des

Browne

Kilmarnock & Loudoun

Labour

21,957.39

Eric

Joyce

Falkirk

Labour

21,805.93

Willie

Rennie

Dunfermline & West Fife

Lib Dem

21,709.26

John

Thurso

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross

Lib Dem

21,633.19

Mike

Weir

Angus

SNP

21,544.21

Gordon

Banks

Ochil and South Perthshire

Labour

21,148.36

Charles

Kennedy

Ross, Skye & Lochaber

Lib Dem

21,101.52

John

Robertson

Glasgow North West

Labour

20,761.48

Russell

Brown

Dumfries & Galloway

Labour

20,668.21

Michael

Moore

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Lib Dem

20,387.05

Peter

Wishart

Perth & Perthshire North

SNP

20,123.75

Jo

Swinson

East Dunbartonshire

Lib Dem

19,859.28

John

Reid

Airdrie & Shotts

Labour

19,829.84

Tom

Harris

Glasgow South

Labour

19,741.93

Angus

MacNeil

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

SNP

19,464.94

David

Mundell

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale

Conservative

19,446.73

Alistair

Carmichael

Orkney & Shetland

Lib Dem

19,371.58

Jim

Murphy

Renfrewshire East

Labour

18,884.09

John

McFall

West Dunbartonshire

Labour

18,837.64

Jimmy

Hood

Lanark & Hamilton East

Labour

18,519.60

Anne

McGuire

Stirling

Labour

18,473.20

Katy

Clark

Ayrshire North & Arran

Labour

17,699.66

Sandra

Osborne

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

Labour

16,601.36

Nigel

Griffiths

Edinburgh South

Labour

16,209.05

Alan

Reid

Argyll & Bute

Lib Dem

16,110.60

David

Cairns

Inverclyde

Labour

16,034.14

Frank

Roy

Motherwell & Wishaw

Labour

16,033.39

Ann

McKechin

Glasgow North

Labour

15,845.21

Sir Robert

Smith

West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine

Lib Dem

15,460.70

Sir Menzies

Campbell

Fife North East

Lib Dem

15,041.34

Mark

Lazarowicz

Edinburgh North & Leith

Labour

14,221.97

Tom

Clarke

Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill

Labour

12,905.00

David

Hamilton

Midlothian

Labour

12,727.11

Lindsay

Roy

Glenrothes

Labour

12,003.00

Alistair

Darling

Edinburgh South West

Labour

10,626.48

Douglas

Alexander

Paisley & Renfrewshire South

Labour

10,262.00

John

Mason

Glasgow East

SNP

9,920.88

Gavin

Strang

Edinburgh East

Labour

9,521.01

Gordon

Brown

Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath

Labour

9,492.05

Michael

Martin

Glasgow North East

Speaker

8,004.17

David

Marshall

Glasgow East (former)

Labour

2,977.56

Alex

Salmond

Banff & Buchan

SNP

588.94

Total

 

 

£ 1,103,425.31