Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 13:39 UK

MP defends 'mansion' work claim

Steen house
Mr Steen claimed for work on his constituency home

Anthony Steen, the Conservative MP for Totnes in Devon, says he did nothing wrong in claiming tens of thousands of pounds for work on a "country mansion".

Mr Steen designated his constituency property as his second home and then claimed £87,729 over four years, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Items claimed included inspection work on trees, £2,858 for leaking pipes and £1,318 for a wrought iron fireplace.

Former barrister Mr Steen, 70, said he had been made to look like a grandee.

'Rabbits protection'

The Daily Telegraph said leaked details showed £597.14 was claimed for lights, £120 was claimed for fencing, a £459 visit by a woodland consultant who looked into protection from rabbits, and £1,755.89 for fixing the water supply from the spring and bore hole.

Scaffolding hire for chimney repairs and outside decoration, repairing a stone wall, sowing grass and "removing boulders", were also claimed for.

Mr Steen says he is being pilloried for being transparent in his claims

Mr Steen is able to claim second home allowance on the property because he registers a rented flat in London as his main home.

Mr Steen insisted he could see no difference between claiming what he did, or for things such as mortgage interest which he had not claimed for.

He said: "Mortgages and interest are not actually wrong to claim, just in my view that claiming a third of maintaining this wonderful place is not wrong.

"It is just a question of presentation and I am fortunately presented a picture which makes me look like a Tory grandee.

"The system is lousy. I am extremely upset for my family and country that there has been such an awful mess-up here.

"It's not a question of feeling we have done something wrong. It is just the system which is wrong.

"The public must think we are all crooks. Well, we're not and all of us work for the good of the community and one's constituents."

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