Page last updated at 18:10 GMT, Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:10 UK

SF deny 'inflating' MP rent costs

Gerry Adams
The paper claims SF paid 3,600 a month for a flat used by Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein has defended their MPs against newspaper allegations that they claimed inflated costs for their accommodation in London.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed that three flats were rented by the MPs in north London over the market rate.

Sinn Fein's five MPs do not take their Westminster seats so are not entitled to salaries, but they do get expenses.

The party said the rental fees also covered charges for parking, housekeeping and utilities.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness paid £3,600 a month in rent to an Irish landlord for a flat which a local estate agent estimated should cost just £1,400.

The paper says the other three MPs paid £5,400 a month for a town house which the estate agent valued at just £1,800.

Pat Doherty, the party's West Tyrone MP, said the report was a "deliberate attempt to misrepresent the situation in the run up to an election".

"It is widely known that Sinn Fein MPs travel regularly to London on parliamentary business and utilise the accommodation that we rent when there," said Mr Doherty.

Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams gives his reaction to claims by the Sunday Telegraph that party MPs are claiming Westminster rent allowances over the market rate.

"We do not purchase properties at public expense and therefore do not profit from the expenses claimed as of right.

"We also make no apology for ensuring that those people who vote for Sinn Fein get the same democratic entitlements as everyone else."

Mr Doherty said Sinn Fein publishes its accounts annually and all its representatives receive an "average industrial wage", with the rest of its income going into constituency services.

Last month, Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed that the allowance for MPs' accommodation be replaced with flat-rate daily expenses based on Commons attendance.

He asked an ethics committee, however, to look at the circumstances of Northern Ireland MPs before applying the change.

Although the proposal was subsequently dropped, it was branded by unionists as a "sop" to Sinn Fein.

On Sunday, NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said Sinn Fein had told him "they want to be treated the same as everyone else".

He added that the review into the system of expenses and allowances by Sir Christopher Kelly should address "all anomalies".

"We should look at double jobbing for example. There will be assembly members in Northern Ireland who will be claiming allowances and salaries and all kinds of expenses - they may will be claiming them in Westminster as well," said Mr Woodward.

"I think the whole system has to be looked at."

Mr Woodward, one of the richest men in the cabinet who does not take his full ministerial salary, reportedly claimed £100,000 in mortgage interest over four years.

He told the BBC: "I think the public look at us right now, think we have all got our noses in the trough - our profession looks shameful - it's embarrassing.

"Right now if I try to make almost any defence of our collective position - or my position - it looks terrible."

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