Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Key points: Legg report into MPs expenses claims

Here are the key points of Sir Thomas Legg's audit of MPs expenses claims between 2004 and 2008.


Over the five-year period covered by Sir Thomas' review, £55m was paid to MPs under the second home allowance. An additional £2.5m was claimed by MPs, but rejected by the Commons Fees Office. Sir Thomas recommended £1.3m for repayment by 390 MPs, but his total was cut by £185,000 after MPs appealed against his earlier judgements. Seventeen MPs had their demands cut to zero on appeal, leaving 373 to make repayments.


The largest sums ordered to be repaid by sitting MPs - after appeals are taken into account - are £42,458 by Barbara Follett (Lab, Stevenage), £36,250 by Bernard Jenkin (Con, North Essex), £31,193 by Andrew Mackay (Con, Bracknell), £29,691 by David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells, Con), £29,398 by John Gummer (Con, Suffolk Coastal), £29,243 by Julie Kirkbride (Con, Bromsgrove) and £24,878 by Liam Fox (Con, Woodspring).


Barbara Follett, junior local government minister and MP for Stevenage, has been ordered to repay £42,458. This includes £34,776.30 claimed from April 2004 to November 2008 for mobile security patrols at her second home. This went beyond the rules set out in the Green Book limiting claims to "basic security measures". She was also paid a total of £8,908.36 for six telephone lines at her second home between April 2004 and November 2008. The number of lines and the amount claimed were excessive, and half the allowance, i.e. £4,454.18, should be repaid, Legg ruled. The report says Ms Follett was further overpaid by an estimated £2,812.95 in 2004-05 to 2006-07 for an additional household insurance premium for fine art, which is not allowable. She was also paid £221 twice for boiler insurance in June 2004 and again in August 2004. Finally, she was paid £193.78 for pest control in April-June 2006 for an address other than her second home.


Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South, was asked to repay 40p due to a clerical error.


Some 48% of the 752 MPs and former MPs covered by the audit have no issues arising from the review and 52% have been recommended to make repayments.


Conservative MP Peter Lilley had his repayment demand reduced by £41,057.46 on appeal. The Legg report says: "Mr Lilley purchased his second home in 2003 using a loan from his wife, but since this happened before the review period I make no comment on this arrangement. In 2005, he replaced that loan with a mortgage held jointly with his wife, repaying her the original loan. Over the rest of the review period, he was paid a total of £41,057.36 for mortgage interest on this second loan. In substance, this loan appears to have released capital, which was not permitted under the ACA other than for the purpose of improving or repairing the home."


The Legg review cost £1.16m - more than the £1.12m demand for repayment.


Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton, Lab) was paid £240.95 for two Waterford crystal grapefruit bowls. They were bought to replace broken items, but Mr Kaufman was told he should have claimed for these under household insurance. John Redwood (Wokingham, Con) claimed £112 for the cost of reseeding his lawn. He appealed, but was told that while expenses for "lawn cutting, weeding [or] pruning shrubs" would have been acceptable, "anyone who has to decide what gardening expenses should be borne by public funds has to draw a line somewhere". Anthony Steen (Totnes, Con) was paid a total of £184.89 in May 2004 for skip hire, 23 garden plants, and a flagpole rope and binding. He was told by Sir Thomas that the plants were not allowable and the other items "were claimed without evidence as to their necessity".


A number of MPs have paid more money back than Sir Thomas requested. One of the most eye-catching is Phil Hope (Corby, Lab) who has repaid almost 10 times the amount. He was asked for £4,365.65 yet is recorded as having returned £42,674.13. Sir John Butterfill (Bournemouth West, Con) has repaid £15,000 more than Sir Thomas asked for. Confirming he would not be asking for any of the money back, he told the BBC: "My reputation is worth more to me than anything else." Conservative leader David Cameron, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, his predecessor Sir Menzies Campbell and ministers Chris Bryant and Liam Byrne have also over-repaid.


Two former MPs have failed to respond to requests for repayments by Legg. John Lyons and Ivor Caplin (who left the Commons in 2005) were both asked for more than £17,000. Newspaper reports have suggested that there is nothing the House authorities will be able to do to regain the money. In his report, Legg recommends that both men should repay the entirety of what he says are invalid payments.


The report says: "The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) system was deeply flawed. In particular, the rules were vague, and MPs were themselves self-certifying as to the propriety of their use of the allowance. Taken with the prevailing lack of transparency and the 'culture of deference', this meant that the Fees Office's decisions lacked legitimacy; and many of them were in fact mistaken."

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