Friday 15 May 2009 | MPs' expenses feed | All feeds


MPs' expenses: Alan Haselhurst's £12,000 gardening bill

Sir Alan Haselhurst has charged the taxpayer almost £12,000 for gardening bills at his farmhouse in Essex, his expenses claims show.

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Sir Alan Haselhurst: MPs' expenses
Sir Alan Haselhurst lists gardening among his hobbies Photo: DANIEL JONES
Sir Alan Haselhurst: MPs' expenses
Sir Alan Haselhurst charged for repairs to his drive and patio Photo: UPPA

The Deputy Speaker, who is paid £104,050, has claimed a total of £142,119 in second home allowances since 2001, despite having no mortgage on the property.

The Saffron Walden MP claimed £2,988 for gardening at the half-timbered home in 2007-08, the last year for which a complete figure is available.

He put in a claim for £249 every month of that year – £1 below the limit for which receipts must be submitted, meaning he did not have to include invoices for the work. Between 2004 and June 2008 the total bill for gardening at the house was £11,771. He also charged £202 for pea shingle for his driveway, £638.91 for repairs to his patio, £2,199.60 for a replacement oil tank and £193 for having his chimney swept once a year. His biggest individual bill was £3,117 for his roof to be re-tiled.

The former chemical industry executive also claimed thousands of pounds for food at what he accepts is his main family home. In 2006-07 he claimed a total of £3,400 in food allowances.

Sir Alan, 71, who lists gardening as one of his hobbies in Who’s Who, also charges £2,677 in council tax for property, where his three children grew up and where his wife, Angela, is based.

The amount of money which the taxpayer has had to pay for gardening work at the Oxford-educated MP’s country home will inevitably raise questions over whether the work was strictly for “maintenance”, as stipulated in the Green Book, and whether the expense was “wholly, necessarily and exclusively” incurred to enable him to carry out his parliamentary work. When he is working, Sir Alan lives in a £350,000 flat in the Dolphin Square complex, a short walk from Parliament.

As Deputy Speaker and chairman of the ways and means committee, a largely ceremonial title, Sir Alan’s most important Commons role is presiding over the Budget debate every year.

Sir Alan said: “When I became Deputy Speaker in 1997 I was instructed by the fees office that I was now considered to be a quasi-minister based in London and so I had to claim my ACA on my constituency home, which is my family home. The upkeep of the garden was one of the things I asked if I could charge for and I was told I could. I wasn’t charging for rent and so on, so I charge for cleaning, gardening, utilities, council tax, some repairs, certain insurance, and these are, broadly speaking, the categories on the claim form.

“The gardener does eight hours a week, he does all the heavy work which I don’t have the opportunity to do when I’m in London.

“People will judge how far these things are necessary; quite a lot of people would regard even the existence of the allowances as something they are not sure MPs should have. My view is that it should have been dealt with through salary which is taxable.”

  • Sir Alan Haselhurst

Job: Deputy speaker

Salary: £104,050

Total second homes claims:

2004-5: £20,902

2005-6: £21,634

2006-7: £20,656

2007-8: £22,957

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