Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

AMs bought iPods with allowances

A list of what expenses were claimed was released by the assembly

Two members of the Welsh assembly bought iPods on taxpayer-funded expenses, it has emerged.

Conservative leader Nick Bourne and fellow Tory Alun Cairns submitted the portable music players, worth a combined 398, as office costs.

Meanwhile Labour husband and wife AMs Huw Lewis and Lynne Neagle claimed 22,298 between them.

A breakdown of AMs' claims for their offices, living allowances and travel expenses was issued by the assembly.

Seven AMs claimed the full 12,000 allowed for second home expenses, and a further 12 claimed close to the limit during the 2006-07 financial year.


However, several AMs claimed either nothing at all, or in the low hundreds for the year.

Every claim has to be signed off by the Fees Office of the Assembly Commission, and there is no suggestion that any claim is inappropriate according to the rules laid down by the assembly.

Members are entitled to allowances for second homes in Cardiff because they are away from their constituency homes during the week while attending the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

In addition to claiming for an iPod, Mr Bourne, who represents Mid and West Wales, also used his additional costs allowance to buy a 120 trouser press, and has claimed a total of more than 5,000 over the past two years on his bathroom.

Mr Cairns, a South West Wales AM, also bought his office a 250 Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Nick Bourne (left) and Alun Cairns.
Nick Bourne (left) and Alun Cairns claimed iPods worth a combined 398

Monmouth Tory AM Nick Ramsay bought his office a television, a stand and television insurance costing 814.98.

An earlier batch of second-home expenses, released in August, showed he spent 977.95 on a Sony LCD television and surround-sound system.

Former South Wales East Conservative AM Laura Ann Jones bought a television costing more than 1,000 in January 2007. She lost her seat in the May 2007 election.

A Conservative party spokesman said there was no information on what had happened to the television.

Labour Local Government Minister Brian Gibbons, the AM for Aberavon, spent 16.50 on a Royal British Legion wreath, his office costs show.

The assembly has released information on how much AMs have claimed in the past, but this is the first year it has been done in such detail.

Huw Lewis AM and Lynne Neagle AM
Married AMs Huw Lewis and Lynne Neagle claimed nearly 23,000

More than 26,500 has been spent - including on hiring temporary staff to compile receipts for the last two financial years - so the assembly can answer freedom of information requests on expenses.

AMs can claim up to 15,000 to maintain a constituency office, up from 14,400 last year.

Those who live far from Cardiff Bay are entitled to 13,000 to cover a second home or overnight stays on official business - 4,100 if their main home is closer. The rates were 12,500 and 3,900 respectively last year.

There is no limit on travel expenses, though AMs are expected to take the most economical route, a spokesman said.

An independent review is currently being carried out into AMs' pay and expenses by Sir Roger Jones, Swansea University's pro-chancellor.

A panel set up after a controversial 8.3% pay rise for AMs earlier in the year, has been gathering the views of the public.

'Improve transparency'

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said the party wanted AMs' allowances to be released on a more regular basis.

"We believe that it would further improve the transparency of the system to release this sort of information on a more regular basis," they said.

"We have asked the Assembly Commission to fully consider the cost and workload implications of routinely releasing the information every three months."

A Welsh Conservative Party spokesman said it had "always supported greater transparency in the work of the National Assembly and by Assembly Members".

He added: "Today's publication of AMs' allowances is an important part of that.

"All of these claims are legitimate and within the rules."

A spokesman for Welsh Labour said all the claims published had been authorised by Assembly Commission officials.

"As a group we welcome the transparency that this process provides," he said.

"These allowances are also, of course, currently being reviewed by the Independent Panel on Members' Pay and Allowances and the Labour group looks forward to engaging positively with the work of this review."

A spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: "This publication shows how transparent and accountable the assembly is, particularly in relation to other democratically-elected institutions."

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