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Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Saturday, 9 May 2009 15:50 UK

Fresh MP expense claims published

[clockwise from top left] Barbara Follett, Greg Barker, Margaret Moran, Phil Hope
Reports are being published in the Telegraph over several days

A new batch of leaked details on MPs' expenses claims have been published.

Those featured by the Daily Telegraph include tourism minister Barbara Follett, who claimed more than £25,000 for security patrols at her home.

She and others named, such as Labour minister Phil Hope and Tory MP Greg Barker, say they have not broken rules.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has threatened legal action over "disgusting" allegations he claimed for women's clothing, nappies and comics.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw - Exeter MP and minister for the South West - has also said claims made about his expenses in Saturday's paper were factually wrong.

The Telegraph's latest story comes a day after the paper published details of 13 Cabinet ministers' expenses. It plans to publish further revelations about MPs from other parties in the coming days.

The Commons authorities have complained to the Metropolitan Police, who confirmed they were considering a request for an investigation into the leak to the paper.

Police complaint

The Telegraph also has details of the expenses of Keith Vaz, a former minister who now chairs the home affairs select committee.

Mr Vaz reportedly claimed £75,000 for a Westminster flat although his family's home is 12 miles away in Stanmore.

He said that he had acted within the rules. He added that his designated home was in his Leicester constituency, the Westminster flat was his second home, and he made no claims for the home in Stanmore where his family lives.

The purchases I made were no more than was necessary to live in a habitable residence
Care services minister Phil Hope

Backbench Labour MP Margaret Moran also came under scrutiny on Saturday.

She has yet to comment on reports she apparently spent £22,500 on treating dry rot at the coastal property she had designated as her second home - which is not in London and is 100 miles from her Luton constituency.

A spokesman for Ms Moran said she would speak exclusively to the BBC's Politics Show East on Sunday, adding: "Ms Moran is concerned about elements of the story and is seeking legal advice to whether or not this is actionable."

And the first prominent Conservative MP has been named by the paper. Shadow climate change minister Greg Barker has denied he made a profit on the sale of a house by "working the expenses system".

He said the Telegraph story did not make clear "that there was a very substantial six-figure sum of my own money involved, that wasn't claimed for".

"It would be completely inaccurate and untrue for the Telegraph to allege that the difference in purchase and sale price represented a profit."

'Disgusting' reporting

Labour minister Barbara Follett claimed more than £25,000 for security at her home, but she said this met Commons rules and gave no further comment.

Mrs Follett's total bill for security patrols between 2004 and 2008 - which started after she was mugged - was £25,411.64, the paper said.

The question you have to ask is who devised the system? MPs devised the system under their self-regulating arrangements

Sir Alistair Graham, ex-chairman, committee for standards in public life

The wife of author Ken Follett and one of Parliament's richest MPs, she also claimed £528.75 for a Chinese needlepoint rug to be repaired and cleaned, but was only paid back £300 after it was deemed excessive, the Telegraph said.

She told the newspaper: "As all of [my claims], bar one, have been accepted and cleared by the House of Commons Fees Office under the rules laid out in the Green Book, I have no further comment to make on them."

She said the item not accepted was claimed in error and was one of the two occasions in the last 12 years her expenses claims had been queried.

Meanwhile Mr Woolas called the Telegraph's reporting "absolutely disgusting" and said he believed the newspaper's claims might be "actionable" and he was seeking legal advice.

Woolas: Items on receipts not claimed

The minister claims nappies and women's clothing were listed on a receipt for food which he submitted, but he did not receive any money for them.

Saturday's 11-page report also said care services minister Phil Hope had spent more than £37,000 over about four years on refurbishing and furnishing a two-bedroom south London flat.

Mr Hope said: "I claimed the cost of running and furnishing a flat in London, in full accordance with the rules that apply to members of Parliament.

"The purchases I made were no more than was necessary to live in a habitable residence and replacements only occurred when furniture and fittings were worn out. These items were then disposed of.

"I have not personally benefited from this process."

'Drip, drip'

Full details of all MPs' expenses dating back four years, running to 2.4 million receipts, were due to be published in the middle of July after the Commons authorities lost a Freedom of Information battle.

But instead, the Telegraph is revealing the information early.

BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said: "MPs from other parties are going to be drawn into this, backbenchers too. There is a feeling that that is where some of the real, shocking horror stories of claims may then come to light, on the back benches."

Nick Robinson image
Once again the gap between the reactions of politicians and the public has been stark

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has called for the official release of the information to be brought forward, to avoid the "drip drip effect" of the Daily Telegraph story.

However, his fellow Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey, a member of the House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for publishing the data, said it would be premature to release it while officials were still "getting it into a form where the public can make some sense out of it".

Former chairman of the committee for standards in public life, Sir Alistair Graham, said the expenses system had to be decided in the public and taxpayers' interest, by an independent outside body.

"It is depressing to keep hearing [MPs] saying 'well, it's the system that was wrong and we are changing the system'.

"The question you have to ask is who devised the system? MPs devised the system under their self-regulating arrangements and that's what must change for the future."




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