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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Minister faces expenses scrutiny
Opposition parties will table parliamentary questions
A senior Scottish cabinet minister is facing renewed calls for him to explain expenses he claimed in the past year.

Tom McCabe, the Minister for Parliament, secured a 9,446 allowance to buy a flat in Edinburgh but official figures show that he only spent 2,784 on hotel bills.

Mr McCabe said that he had broken no rules and would only actually claim around 5,000 for his flat - a figure roughly equivalent to the 5,605 he claimed in total for hotels and travel as an MSP and minister in 2000-2001.

But opposition parties are set to table more parliamentary questions amid accusations that the issue "has done nothing for the reputation of politics".

Tom McCabe
Tom McCabe: "No rules broken"
The Hamilton South MSP persuaded the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) to award him the allowance even though he did not meet the official criteria of living 90 minutes from Edinburgh.

Mr McCabe argued that his roles as Minister for Parliament, Labour group business manager, party whip and MSP meant that he was spending a considerable amount of time in Edinburgh and incurring large accommodation expenses.

The SPCB agreed and awarded him an allowance of 9,446 to purchase a flat in Edinburgh.

Opposition parties questioned this when a parliamentary report showed Mr McCabe claimed 2,784 in hotel costs as an MSP and 423 for travel in the financial year 2000-2001.

But a spokeswoman for Mr McCabe said his overall travel bill - as an MSP and a minister - was 2,821, making a total for hotels and travel of 5,605 for the financial year

Public purse

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman David Davidson said: "These figures are bad news for Tom McCabe.

"They do not appear to back up the claim that his call for a new home was inspired by a consideration for the public purse.

"Far from saving the public money, the figures appear to point to an extra 5,000 being taken from parliament funds as a result of the decision to grant him a new home.

It is important that MSPs are able to provide the proper standard of public service that the people of Scotland deserve

Tom McCabe
"If this turns out to be the case, Tom McCabe will have done nothing for the reputation of politics, the executive or indeed the Scottish Parliament itself."

Mr Davidson said he would be submitting a written question on the issue to the parliament's presiding officer.

A spokesman for the Scottish National Party said: "Tom McCabe will be answerable to parliament and ultimately to the people of his constituency."

But Mr McCabe said the SPCB had approved his allowance and "no rules have been broken".

"My request was considered by the SPCB and I am sure it would consider any other requests for this type of assistance on their merits," he said.

'Not a reward'

"While the allowance is 9,446, I anticipate that what I will claim will be considerably less than that maximum sum, and that it will be around the total travel and accommodation costs that I incurred last year, which total just over 5,600.

"It is important that MSPs are able to provide the proper standard of public service that the people of Scotland deserve.

"The allowances we receive are exactly that - not a reward but there to assist in the work of the parliament."

A spokeswoman for Mr McCabe later confirmed that he had bought a flat in Edinburgh for 150,000 after receiving the allowance.

She said the SPCD award of 9,446 would allow the minister to cover the cost of mortgage payments, council tax and utility bills.

See also:

13 Jun 01 | Scotland
McLeish standards inquiry dropped
21 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Cook promises MPs more scrutiny
21 Dec 00 | Scotland
MPs 'cleared' of breaking rules
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