Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 17:15 UK

Expenses claims focus on Lib Dems

Nick Clegg: 'I'm not a property speculator, I'm a parliamentarian'

Leading Liberal Democrat MPs will repay any profits made from second homes for which they have claimed parliamentary expenses, party leader Nick Clegg says.

The promise comes after the Daily Telegraph revealed Mr Clegg had last year exceeded his maximum allowance and had to give back more than £100.

Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne claimed for items such as biscuits and a trouser press, the newspaper adds.

Ex-leader Sir Menzies Campbell claimed almost £10,000 to redecorate a flat.

Although Sir Menzies said the expenditure on the rented London property had been in "the spirit of the rules", he has agreed to return £1,490.66 he paid to an interior designer.

Local government spokesman Julia Goldsworthy will also repay the £1,005 she spent on a chair for a London flat.

'Massive blow'

Corby Labour MP and health minister Phil Hope has said he will hand back £41,709 in MPs' expenses used for furniture, fittings and other items for his second home. He said his constituents' anger had been "a massive blow to me that I cannot allow to continue".

Having devoted several days' coverage to the use by Labour and the Conservative MPs of their second homes allowances and other expenses, the Telegraph has moved on to the Lib Dems.

This issue has fundamentally changed the view people have of me and that is something I cannot bear

Phil Hope, health minister

Mr Clegg is alleged "regularly" to have claimed all, or very nearly all, of his second home allowance - currently worth up to £24,000 a year for MPs with constituencies outside greater London - having had more than £100 docked when he exceeded the limit last year.

But the Lib Dem leader said he and his frontbench team would return any profits made on properties paid for with public money.

He said: "I will come down like a ton of bricks on any MP who has sought to defraud the taxpayer, profit for personal gain in the property market.

"So far, to my knowledge, not a single Liberal Democrat MP has committed the biggest abuse which has emerged in the revelations over the last few days, and that is flipping from one home to the other to avoid capital gains tax and to make a big personal profit."


Other expenses items listed by the newspaper for Mr Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, include a mobile phone call to Colombia, paper napkins, a 69p children's bowl and a £2,600 kitchen.

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the days of paying money, taxpayers' money for what you call fripperies - furniture and so on - are over."

According to the Telegraph, Lib Dem MP Andrew George claimed for furniture and £847 a month for mortgage interest on the £300,000 riverside flat in Rotherhithe, east London, which was, it claimed, "used" by his 21-year-old daughter.

Andrew George: 'It's a non-story fabricated as a front page story'

Mr George denied that she had been living there at the time the expenses were submitted, but had come to stay with him "in recent months".

He said: "Frankly - especially as my wife and I own one third of the property - there is nothing wrong with any member of my family coming to share the flat with me and to stay in the spare room for as long as they wish.

"Many MPs confide in me that they have members of their family staying with them. From now on my family will come and stay with me at the flat more not less. We should encourage families to be together."

'Needed replacement'

He told the BBC News Channel he was "due an apology" from the newspaper.

The Telegraph said Sir Menzies, Lib Dem leader from 2006 to 2007, had claimed for cushions, a king-sized bed and a flat-screen television as well as £1,718 for laundry over four years, and more than £4,700 on parking bills.

He has stressed he never owned property in London and had not used his full second home allowance in previous years.

He said he had used designer Amy Schellenberg - the daughter of a friend - because she represented value for money.

But in a letter to the Commons authorities confirming his decision to repay £1.490.66, Sir Menzies said public opinion would not "regard payment of a fee to a designer in the circumstances outlined as appropriate", adding that he "shared that view".

I can see most of my constituents don't own a trouser press, it's a slightly Alan Partridge item anyway
Chris Huhne

Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne claimed £119 for a trouser press. A spokesman said he had already paid the money back.

Other claims made by the Eastleigh MP include 79p for a packet of HobNobs and a £3.20 bus ticket, according to the Telegraph.

But he told the BBC he had claimed only £3,970 of the maximum £24,000 allowance last year: "I'm not one of those MPs who are trying to milk the system."

He said he thought a trouser press, to help him look smart at constituency events, had been legitimate - but wanted to pay it back to avoid any controversy. "I can see most of my constituents don't own a trouser press, it's a slightly Alan Partridge item anyway."

Mr Huhne, a millionaire, said he had claimed less than MPs worth far more than him. He said: "I have no swimming pools, I have no moats to clear, I haven't repaired any tennis courts so I'm definitely at the slumdog end of this parade we have had over the last few days."

Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Opik claimed £40 for a court summons. He has agreed to repay the money.

The latest revelations follow an apology by Conservative leader David Cameron, who said he was "appalled" by some of his MPs' expenses.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has also said she will pay back capital gains tax worth £13,332 over the sale of her second home.

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