Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

MP Quentin Davies laughs off bell tower expenses claim

Bell tower
Mr Davies said the bill was for repairs to his roof

Defence minister Quentin Davies has dismissed the row about an expenses claim for repairs to a bell tower at his constituency home as a "joke".

Quizzed about the £20,700 invoice on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Grantham and Stamford MP insisted he had not done "anything remotely wrong".

He said he had never intended to claim the full amount on the invoice, only for legitimate repairs to his roof.

Mr Davies was eventually paid £5,376 by the Commons fees office.

The MP, who defected from the Conservatives to Labour two years ago, was asked on Today whether his work as defence procurement minister had been hampered because of the risk that "people spend a lot of their time laughing at you or your house".

'Banter'

He replied: "Of course it hasn't. It has resulted in a number of jokes in the House of Commons, which is fine.

"There is always an enormous amount of banter in the House of Commons. It doesn't in any way cut across serious business being conducted as well. That is the way politics works and it's a sensible, civilised way for politics to work."

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Mr Davies said he had "never charged in my expenses and my allowances for anything that wasn't absolutely, totally legitimate", though he accepted that it might have been wiser to ask for separate invoices for the work on the roof and bell-tower.

He said he only charged around a quarter of the total bill to MPs' allowances, "because I recognise that my house is more expensive than most people's houses".

"What I charged was not only within the limit, but it was entirely for a legitimate purpose, unlike David Cameron's wisteria," he said. "There is no question at all that house repairs have always been classically acceptable, so there is no problem there.

"It is all a joke and everybody knows I haven't done anything remotely wrong."

'Exceptional bill'

Asked if he considered standing down as a minister when the second home allowance claim was revealed, Mr Davies replied: "You must be absolutely joking. There's absolutely nothing remotely that I have done wrong and nobody has ever suggested I have.

"This whole thing is a joke."

Mr Davies says confusion arose because the bell tower was on the same invoice as roof repairs he was claiming for.

In a letter when he submitted the invoice to to the fees office, dated 2 February this year, Mr Davies explains that he has submitted an "an exceptional and very high (though very essential) repair bill which takes my claim to more than the annual limit".

The MP asked the fees office to calculate the portion of the bill that fits within his allowance limit, with no mention that the bell tower work was not being claimed for.

Three months later, at the height of expenses revelations in the Telegraph - and in the same week that Conservative MP Douglas Hogg, who represents a neighbouring constituency, decided to stand down after submitting an invoice which included repairs to his moat - Mr Davies wrote again to the fees office.

He noted that he had been paid only a "portion" of the cost of repairs to his roof - £5,380 - and stressed that he had never intended to claim for the bell tower part of the work.

Mr Davies says the roof repairs and the bell tower work appeared on the same invoice and said: "With hindsight, to avoid confusion, I should have asked for separate invoices."



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