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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
McLeish pays back expenses
Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish said an error had been made
Scotland's first minister has agreed to repay 9,000 to Westminster following a long-running controversy over his former constituency allowances.

The Tories claimed that Henry McLeish had been dragged kicking and screaming to the move.

But the Fife MSP said an error had been made - and that the issue was now closed.

Elizabeth Filkin
Elizabeth Filkin made inquiries
The Tories complained that Mr McLeish had claimed full Westminster expenses for his Glenrothes constituency office - although part of it was sublet to a law firm.

They claimed 4,000 a year had been misclaimed over 10 years.

Mr McLeish has consistently denied wrongdoing - but co-operated with enquiries by the Westminster Standards Commissioner Elizabeth Filkin.

However, the parliamentary watchdog dropped her interest after the June general election because he was no longer an MP.

Mr McLeish stood down as MP for Central Fife to concentrate on his work as a Member of the Scottish Parliament - which meant he was no longer subject to the scrutiny of the commissioner, whose remit only extends to Westminster parliamentarians.

'Kicking and screaming'

On Tuesday, Mr McLeish said he had come to an agreement with the Commons fees office to repay 9,000.

He said an error had been made - but that he was happy to settle the issue.

His spokesman stressed that the first minister had not made any personal financial gain.

"The money from the allowance claim has always been paid into a separate business bank account for his constituency office," he said.

David McLetchie
David McLetchie: "Caught out"
"This has been confirmed by the Fees Office at the House of Commons after thorough consideration of the details."

The spokesman said the allowance had been claimed "in good faith".

"Mr McLeish was under no obligation to continue the dialogue with the House of Commons authorities after he ceased to be an MP at the last Westminster election.

"However, Mr McLeish continued to cooperate with the Commons authorities as he believed the matter should be concluded and that any doubts over the position should be cleared up once and for all," he said.

And he added that Ms Filkin had confirmed to Mr McLeish that there was no investigation by her or her office into Mr McLeish's office costs.

Limited statement

However, the Conservatives said Mr McLeish had been "dragged kicking and screaming" to make a statement over the issue.

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie said: "Henry McLeish has been caught out.

"It's disgraceful that it's taken six months of probing to get even the limited statement that we have today, particularly as Mr McLeish is always boasting of his commitment to so-called open government and freedom of information.

"There are still questions to be answered."


Although recompense has now been made, the first minister should set the record straight

Fiona Hyslop
The party also said that the row had damaged the first minister and his office.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party's Fiona Hyslop invited Mr McLeish to make a personal statement to the Scottish Parliament on the issue.

"This is deeply embarrassing to the first minister," she said.

"Although recompense has now been made, the first minister should set the record straight as the period in question did cover the time when he was both an MSP and an MP.

"It is vital for the dignity of the office of first minister that Mr McLeish take this opportunity to make a personal statement to the Scottish Parliament to explain his position and end any further speculation."

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Political editor Brian Taylor
"Mr McLeish confirmed that a settlement had been reached"

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21 Oct 01 | Scotland
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