Page last updated at 21:02 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 22:02 UK

Speaker backs expenses repayments

John Bercow
Mr Bercow said the limits had been "implicit" in existing rules

Commons Speaker John Bercow has signalled his support for backdated caps on MPs' expenses, despite anger among many politicians.

Auditor Sir Thomas Legg has asked some MPs to pay back thousands of pounds in claims made for gardening and cleaning since 2004.

One Labour MP has promised to go to court to challenge the retrospective introduction of limits on allowances.

But Mr Bercow's spokesman said these had been "implicit" in existing rules.

Sir Thomas, a former civil servant, was asked to look at all MPs' expenses since 2004.

He decided that none should have claimed more than £1,000 a year for gardening and £2,000 for cleaning.

Whip threat

Sir Thomas wrote to all MPs asking them to pay back any amount above this.

Among those affected, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has returned £12,415, with several other cabinet and shadow cabinet members also having to pay back money.

Tory leader David Cameron has said any of his party's MPs who refuse to comply with Sir Thomas will lose the Conservative whip, while Mr Brown has urged Labour MPs to pay back any money requested.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said earlier that the audit should stretch wider, to include repayments for other excessive claims.

But many MPs are furious at what they consider an unfair imposition of retrospective rules.

Labour backbencher Alan Simpson is pledging to go to court rather than return £500 which he has been accused of over-claiming in cleaning bills.

Mr Bercow's spokesman denied reports that he had tried to persuade Sir Thomas not to introduce backdated caps.

He insisted they had only discussed whether the limits should be expressed in cash.

The spokesman said: "The Speaker accepts Sir Thomas's view that this is not retrospective, but what was implicit in the rules as written."

The Commons Members Estimate Committee will make the final decision on whether to implement Sir Thomas's recommendations after he delivers his final report in December.



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