Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

MPs told to repay expense claims

John Lyons
John Lyons has been told he must repay more than 18,000

Scottish MPs have been ordered to pay back tens of thousands of pounds of Commons expenses following a report by Sir Thomas Legg.

Among those who over claimed are former Strathkelvin and Bearsden MP John Lyons who has been told to repay £18,780 in mortgage interest payments.

However, the former Labour politician said he did not "owe a penny".

Also named in the report is Baroness Irene Adams, the former MP for Paisley North and Falkirk West MP Eric Joyce.

Sir Thomas has recommended that 390 MPs should repay a total of £1.3m.

His report follows an audit of second homes expenses dating back to 2004.

Following the review, he described the system as "deeply flawed", said the rules were "vague" and that it had been up to MPs to "self certify" the propriety of their claims.

£4,000 - hotel stays
£711,000 - mortgage/rent
£12,000 - food
£10,000 - utilities
£35,000 - 59 Council Tax/Rates
£23,000 - phone & telecoms
£105,000 - cleaning
£81,000 - service/maintenance
£73,000 - repairs/insurance/security
£252,000 - 182 other payments
Total: £1,305,000

MPs had to sign a declaration with each claim saying "that I incurred these costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily to enable me to stay overnight away from my only or main home for the purpose of performing my duties as a Member of Parliament".

In his report he pointed out there had been "no audit of any kind" of second homes expenses during the period he covered adding: "Neither internal nor external auditors could 'go behind the member's signature'."

In the report Mr Lyons, who is accused of over claiming £18,000, was said to have so far failed to respond to a series of letters on the matter.

However, he told BBC Scotland he had not received any correspondence about his expenses.

He has also requested an "urgent meeting" with Sir Thomas along with a full written apology.

Sir Thomas' report also found Baroness Irene Adams, the former Labour member for Paisley north, should pay back £5,050.

It also recommends that the present Labour MP for Falkirk West, Eric Joyce repay £8602.56 for mortgage interest and council tax claims.

report entry for John Lyon
John Lyon's name was listed on page 161 of the report

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, has been told to pay back £480, while Jimmy Hood, the Labour member for Lanark and Hamilton East, has been asked to repay a total of £5,413.49.

John Robertson, the Labour MP for Glasgow North West, will be required to pay back almost £3,000.

The former Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell has paid back more than £8,000 since April last year

In total, 390 MPs, more than half of the House of Commons, have been asked to repay a portion of their expense claims.

The report said £800,000 had been repaid already - some voluntarily, unconnected to Sir Thomas's demands - since April 2009, the month before the MPs expenses scandal broke.

'Traumatic and painful'

MPs were given the option of appealing against Sir Thomas's recommendations and about 70 are known to have done so - 44 were successful in getting the demands either reduced or overturned.

Many MPs complained that Sir Thomas had retrospectively applied limits to claims for gardening and cleaning that were not in place at the time - and demanded they pay back the difference.

But Sir Thomas rejected that criticism, saying the rules stated the expense could "only be used as reimbursement for specific and proportionate expenditure... needed for the performance of parliamentary duties".

He said the fact that the fees office and MPs at the time "acted in apparent ignorance of the rules and standards then in force cannot cure the invalidity of the payments".

Houses of Parliament
Many MPs have announced they will retire since the scandal broke

He also criticised a "widespread lack of proper evidence on the record from MPs to support substantial payments" - including mortgage claims which were "expressly required by the rules".

Sir Thomas criticised the "deeply flawed" expenses system adding: "In particular, the rules were vague, and MPs were themselves self-certifying as to the propriety of their use of the allowance.

"Taken with the prevailing lack of transparency and the 'culture of deference', this meant that the [Commons] fees office's decisions lacked legitimacy; and many of them were in fact mistaken."

The expenses saga had been "traumatic and painful" he said but the response to it had shown that "when things do go wrong, we have together the will and the means to put matters right".

MPs who still have their seats and refuse to pay may have the money docked from their pay or allowances.

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