Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 16:23 UK

Ken Clarke gets expenses apology

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke had been asked to repay the largest sum of the shadow cabinet

MPs' expenses auditor Sir Thomas Legg has apologised to Ken Clarke for asking him to pay back too much.

In a letter to the Tory frontbencher Sir Thomas suggested he should repay £4,733 of expenses claimed since 2004.

But on Wednesday he said it should have been £1,345. Two Labour MPs have been told they do not have to repay sums.

Sir Thomas has written to about 600 MPs after reviewing claims following the expenses scandal. Many have been asked to repay sums approved at the time.

Many MPs are furious that Sir Thomas has applied his own, retrospective limits, for claims for gardening and cleaning made under the second homes allowance.

Duplicated forms

Although there was no limit at the time, he said there should have been one to prevent "disproportionate" claims and has asked many MPs to repay money.

The Conservative frontbench published what they had been asked to repay last week and Mr Clarke had been asked for the most - nearly £5,000.

All MPs have three weeks to respond to the requests and Mr Clarke had already said he would "make representations" to Sir Thomas.

This should not have happened and I want to lose no time in offering an unreserved apology
Sir Thomas Legg

On Wednesday, Sir Thomas wrote back and admitted he had got it wrong by nearly £3,400.

He said there had been a "mistake in the original calculation" and the "excess claim" revised to £1,345.

"The error arose because some of your claim forms are duplicated in your file and the amount claimed for cleaning was included in calculations twice," Sir Thomas wrote.

"This should not have happened and I want to lose no time in offering an unreserved apology."

Meanwhile two Labour MPs have been told mistakes were made in requests to them to repay money.

John Mann had queried a repayment request of £110 and has now been told he owes nothing, Michael Clapham was asked to repay £540 and has been told he will not have to do so.

When Sir Thomas's letters went out last week, several MPs said mistakes had been made and they had been asked to repay money they had never claimed.

A spokeswoman for the Legg review said: "In a small number of cases where there have been errors we have apologised."

There were newspaper reports on Wednesday that MPs may be offered a £3,000 pay rise - paid for by a cut in ministers' salaries - to offset a backbench rebellion over an expected cut in expenses, once an independent inquiry into the whole system reports back next month.

Asked about the suggestion, Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The prime minister has not expressed that view."

He said people should "wait and see" what the review proposes when it is published on 4 November.

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