Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 21:25 UK

MPs pay back 500,000 in expenses

A packed House of Commons
The amount of money repaid is set to increase

MPs have now repaid nearly £500,000 in expenses money claimed since 2003, the Parliamentary authorities have said.

Figures suggest 182 MPs from all parties have repaid a total of £478,616 since the crisis began in May.

Gordon Brown has repaid just over £800 while minister Barbara Follett repaid one of the largest sums - £32,976.

Elliot Morley, suspended by Labour for claiming £16,800 for a mortgage that had been paid off, has paid back an extra £20,000, it has emerged.

The Scunthorpe MP and former minister, who has been barred from standing for Labour at the next general election, said further examination by his own lawyers showed that taxpayers had paid for part of the capital sum of his mortgage.

I am confident that what has been found so far demonstrates that this was a genuine error
Elliott Morley

MPs are only allowed to claim for interest payments.

But Mr Morley said his mortgage was supposed to have been interest only and not paid off until 2010.

"What has come to light is there is an anomaly between the instructions given to the insurance company, given in writing, and what was actually provided both in terms of speed and type of mortgage," he said.

"I am confident that what has been found so far demonstrates that this was a genuine error."

According to the list Cabinet ministers have so far repaid £23,443 in total while shadow cabinet ministers have repaid £30,348.

Some names removed

Repaid claims were published on the Parliament website on Friday morning but were later removed and replaced with a message that the list was "being updated".

On Friday evening a spokeswoman for the House of Commons Commission said a number of names were being removed from the list.

She said they should not have been included because their repayments were not connected to the recently published expense claims.

The MPs removed were Andrew Miller, Ann Coffey, Ian McCartney, Greg Mulholland, Daniel Kawczynski, Lynne Featherstone and Mark Harper. The commission said their repayments related to 2008/9 claims or involved items such as in-year adjustments of mortgages or suppliers returning money.

Roberta Blackman-Woods was also being taken off because she was wrongly listed instead of her colleague Liz Blackman, and the name Roger Packer was taken off because he is not an MP.

'Inadvertent error'

Overall Labour MPs have paid back £316,027 - or 66% of the total returned. The Conservatives repaid £130,798, or 27%, while the Lib Dems have repaid £27,082 - just over 5% of repayments.

The Daily Telegraph had reported that the prime minister had effectively claimed for two properties at the same time in a year when he switched his designated second home from London to Fife.

He reportedly charged for some bills for his home in Fife covering a period when the London flat was still his second home and vice versa.

His spokesman said all sums had been made either to rectify "inadvertent errors or for the avoidance of doubt".

On Thursday Tory leader David Cameron said he would be repaying £947 following a "thorough review" of his claims by his office - he apologised for the "inadvertent error".

TOP TEN REPAYMENTS
Phil Hope (Lab) - £42,674
Elliot Morley (Lab) - £36,800
Barbara Follett (Lab) - £32,976
Jonathan Djanogly (Con) - £25,000
Keith Vaz (Lab) - £18,949
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con) - £15,653
Barry Gardiner (Lab) - £15,229
Paddy Tipping (Lab) - £14,320
Paul Goggins (Lab) - £11,680
Howard Stoate (Lab) - £11,255

The figures published by the Commons Members Estimate Committee on Thursday also reveal that Barbara Follett - the tourism minister - has repaid £32,976.

It is one of the largest single sums repaid by any MP - the largest is £42,674 by care services minister Phil Hope, who had already pledged to do so, in the light of constituents' anger.

Ms Follett, married to best selling author Ken Follett, had claimed £25,411 for security patrols at her London home after she was mugged.

In a statement she said she had decided to repay the sum - which includes as yet unpublished claims for 2008/9 after considering letters from her Stevenage constituents. "The Fees Office did not ask me to do this, nor did they feel that it was necessary for me to do this. But some of my constituents, whose opinion I value and respect, did," said Mrs Follett.

Gardening

She added: "I felt that the only way to make it quite clear that I have never wanted to profit in any way at all from my role as their member of Parliament was to pay these particular expenses ... back."

It has also emerged that home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz has repaid £18,949 and Labour MP Barry Gardiner has repaid £15,229.

In a statement on his website, Mr Vaz said he had stopped claiming for food and for any second home costs when Parliament was in recess. "I also voluntarily refunded one month ago to the Fees office any claims for furniture and furnishings that have been made for my second home," he said.

Barbara Follett
Mrs Follett said she was responding to her constituents' concerns

It was already known that deputy speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst was repaying £12,000 for gardening claims over four years, which were allowable but had upset his constituents. It emerged that he has repaid a total of £15,653.

Sir Alan told the BBC: "The much-debated figure of £12,000 applied to four years and I decided that, by the same token, the unpublished information for the extra year - 2008/09 - obviously I would repay that as well."

Dr Howard Stoate, who represents Dartford but has a second home in Kennington, had also already agreed to repay the money he claimed for the flat in this financial year.

It follows a vote by MPs to stop those with constituencies within 20 miles of Parliament from claiming on the second homes allowance.

'Bad judgement'

Dr Stoate says he had been advised he could still claim but decided to stop doing so, and repay the money from this year, as a gesture, saying the whole allowance was "completely discredited".

It has emerged that cabinet minister Douglas Alexander has repaid more than £12,000.

A spokesman said he had repaid money, relating to the renting out of a building next to his flat between 2001 and 2005, "for the avoidance of doubt".

It also emerged that Labour MP Paddy Tipping repaid £14,320 - all the mortgage interest payments claimed on his London flat since 2003, when he took out a larger mortgage to improve and redecorate the property.

He said he regretted the decision to re-mortgage at the taxpayer's expense, describing it as a "bad judgement", while stressing that he had acted entirely within the rules.

He told the BBC: "What was permissible in 2003 is clearly not permissible in 2009."

The list suggests that David Chaytor, who stood down as a Labour MP after claiming £13,000 for a mortgage which had already been paid off, has only repaid £4,812.46 of that sum so far.

And the £22,500 which Labour MP Margaret Moran claimed to pay for dry rot treatment on her second home, which prompted her resignation, has yet to be repaid.

The latest details of repayments was published hours after all MPs' expenses claims for 2004-8 were finally released by Parliament, with crucial details such as MPs' addresses blacked out.



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