Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Figures Only Add to the Expenses Riddle

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Figures Only Add to the Expenses Riddle

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes

David Miliband is far from the only MP to claim expenses to maintain their constituency home. A glance through the parliamentary expenses tables quickly shows up others, often more high-profile politicians, who have claimed more during the past three years.

But Mr Miliband is the only North-East MP and minister to have an official complaint lodged against him.

When South Shields Conservative Association president George Smith wrote to the parliamentary standards commissioner Sir Philip Mawer this week, he perhaps realised little could be achieved in his complaint ( but as he told The Journal: "I wanted to ask questions."

He has now raised an issue which has got many people in the North-East talking. Exactly what is the MP's additional cost allowance, or second home expenses, spent on?

According to parliamentary rules, an MP can claim back for a raft of goods and services for their second home, whether that property is in London or the constituency, including white goods, furniture, decoration, repairs and the interest on their mortgage payments.

Buying a washing machine would be perfectly legitimate under the rules, on submission of a receipt if it is over pounds 250, as would purchasing a television and kettle and paying for the roof to be repaired. So, of course, is keeping the goods and benefiting from the expense once an MP has left Parliament.

Of course the job of an MP has changed dramatically over the decades, with politicians often working longer hours, more days and more energetically than they did 20 years ago.

The need for them to have two homes, one in the capital and one in the constituency, is almost a necessity.

But when MPs and ministers are claiming around pounds 20,000 a year to cover the costs of their properties, surely we as taxpayers have a right to ask some questions?

There are no breakdowns of the statistics. The Commons fees office which issued the expenses data last week provided total figures only.

The additional cost allowance (ACA) has already caused problems for other ministers in the region. …

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