Page last updated at 21:36 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 22:36 UK

Health minister to repay £41,709

Phil Hope: "The public anger has been a massive blow to me"

Health minister Phil Hope is to repay £41,709 in second home allowances following media revelations.

The Labour MP said he had kept to the rules but stories about his expenses had caused a "massive blow" to his integrity and standing with voters.

It is the biggest amount an MP has paid back as all parties attempt to repair the damage to their reputation.

Labour's Parliamentary chairman Tony Lloyd has urged all Labour MPs to publish claims as soon as possible.

He wrote to Labour MPs saying he would be publishing details of his own claims in his local newspaper next Monday.

He said it was important to act immediately "as a first step to meeting our constituents' anger".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron clashed over MPs' expenses at prime ministers' questions.

Both men agree the system is in need of reform but Mr Cameron - who has told his MPs they must pay back excessive claims or face the sack - said simply looking at whether past rules were obeyed would not restore trust.

The Tory leader said political leadership was needed because the claims needed to be judged on whether they were morally or ethically justified.

'Confidence'

He also called for the scrapping of the £10,000 annual communications allowance given to MPs "so we can all tell our constituents what a wonderful job we are doing".

Mr Brown said that was a matter for MPs but added on expenses: "We need an independent system to assure the public that people have confidence in the system."

Mr Brown has said all MPs' receipts for expenses claimed over four years must be independently scrutinised.

David Cameron
I wonder whether he needs an independent commission to work out whether to have tea or coffee in the morning?
David Cameron on Gordon Brown

A string of Conservative frontbenchers, including Mr Cameron, have agreed to pay back excessive expenses claims following a series of revelations in The Daily Telegraph.

Mr Hope's Labour colleague, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, is to pay £13,332 in respect of capital gains tax on the sale of her second home.

Labour MP for Luton, Margaret Moran, is to pay back £22,500 she spent on treating dry rot at a property in Southampton.

Mr Hope, who has a majority of 1,517 in his Corby and East Northants seat, said: "The anger of my constituents and the damage done to perceptions of my integrity concerning the money I have received to make my London accommodation habitable has been a massive blow to me that I cannot allow to continue.

"I have worked very hard over the last twelve years to represent and fight for my constituents and their opinion of me as a person matters hugely to both myself and my wife Allison.

"We feel very badly hurt by what has happened and although I kept to the rules laid down by Parliament I cannot allow this dreadful perception about what I claimed in allowances to continue.

"Whatever the right and wrongs of the allowance system this issue has fundamentally changed the view people have of me and that is something I cannot bear."

'Badly damaged'

He told the BBC News Channel he had decided to pay the money back after discussing it with his wife.

He said "it is very difficult to find that kind of money" but he wanted to restore trust that had been "badly damaged".

He said: "The important thing for me is not so much the money but how people view what I am, who I am, as a politician and in my constituency the cynicism and the anger that is there is something that I can't bear."

HAVE YOUR SAY
Is there any chance that we could find out who isn't fiddling their expenses? I'd be more interested in finding out who if any of our politicians are in fact honest.
Big Ian, London

The 54-year-old former teacher entered Parliament in Labour's 1997 landslide in a previously Conservative seat and held a string of junior ministerial positions before becoming care services minister. He is also minister for the East Midlands.

The MP has been under pressure from his local newspaper, the Northants Evening Telegraph, which reported he had allowed his student son to use the London flat and has published dozens of angry e-mails from readers on its website.

Among items he claimed for, according to the Daily Telegraph which has been publishing leaked details of MPs expenses, were a new kitchen, seven doors, wooden flooring, bedroom furniture, chairs and tables, two bookcases and a television.

A £120 barbecue and £61 for gardening materials, despite rules stating that MPs can only claim for garden maintenance, were also included for what was said to be a "modest" two-bedroom flat in south London.

Labour backbencher Mark Lazarowicz has, meanwhile, said he will repay £2,675 of his expenses claims for legal and professional fees because they were "much higher than many of the public would be prepared to accept".

The sum is half of what the Edinburgh North and Leith MP claimed for the fees in connection with his London flat.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, has said his party will publish the personal allowances of its seven MPs on the internet every three months.

Mr Salmond, who is Banff and Buchan MP, said Westminster should follow the example of the Scottish Parliament which no longer provides second homes for parliamentarians.

The Scottish first minister said: "I apologise for us being caught up and being party, by our presence, to an expenses system which is clearly open to widespread abuse.

"I think that was entirely wrong - we should have campaigned harder to change that system."



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