Page last updated at 05:22 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 06:22 UK

'Errors' in MP expenses letters

Westminster
MPs face continuing questions over their claims for attending Westminster

Some Scottish MPs have complained that letters they have received about their parliamentary expenses contain "serious inaccuracies".

It comes amidst continuing anger over requests for repayments made by Sir Thomas Legg.

Sir Thomas is the former civil servant who has carried out an independent audit for the House of Commons.

The atmosphere in the Commons is said to be worse than when the scandal first broke in May.

Auditor Sir Thomas Legg has reviewed second homes expenses claims since 2004 and applied new retrospective limits on allowances for gardening and cleaning.

TIM REID, BBC SCOTLAND WESTMINSTER REPORTER
There is no doubting the anger amongst many MPs at the letters they've had from Sir Thomas Legg querying aspects of their expenses.

But at least three Scottish MPs still haven't received their letters and have been left anxiously awaiting them.

One former minister described the latest expenses episode as an "utter shambles".

Other MPs fear it will now drag on for weeks - with some backbenchers prepared to challenge Sir Thomas's findings.

BBC Scotland has contacted or attempted to contact every Scottish MP to ask for details about the letters Sir Thomas has issued to parliamentarians.

So far, only a handful have confirmed that they are completely in the clear, although many are yet to indicate what they have been told.

A number have, however, complained about serious errors in the letters, which they intend to register when they reply.

In details which have emerged on claims by Scottish MPs, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already said he will repay £12,415 for gardening, cleaning and decorating.

SNP leader Alex Salmond is repaying £710.88 for removal costs, which he claimed when he gave up his rented flat in London in 2007.

He has also been asked to supply more information on £2,610 claimed for hotel stays.

Westminster SNP leader Angus Robertson is repaying £1,217 for a sofabed and DVD recorder and is providing rental and mortgage statements as requested.

EXPENSES: THE STORY SO FAR
MPs are allowed to claim expenses for running a second home but there was much uproar in May when receipts and details of what they had been claiming for were leaked to a newspaper.

Among them were claims for expensive TVs and furniture, MPs who claimed for more than one property by "flipping" the designated second home and others who over-claimed for mortgages or services.

Many MPs have announced they will be standing down, some have already repaid claims in response to constituents' anger.

Party leaders pledged to change the system and an independent review is due to make its recommendations this month.

The PM also asked an independent auditor, Sir Thomas Legg, to go over past claims again, to ensure money had been paid out properly. MPs have been getting his letters saying how much they should pay back.

Chancellor Alistair Darling is to repay £554 he claimed towards a chest of drawers to furnish his second home.

He claimed £1,104, but Sir Thomas has imposed a limit of £550 for such items.

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander will have to explain a double claim for garage doors worth £450.

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael has been asked about mortgage payments for a period he says he did not have a mortgage.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell is yet to confirm any details but Conservative Central Office has said it believes Sir Thomas has wrong information.

Sir Thomas was asked by Downing Street to review all MPs' claims under the controversial second homes allowance over five years, after the expenses scandal broke in May.

He cannot force MPs to repay money and his final recommendations will go to the Commons Members Estimate Committee, which will decide what to do next.



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