UK Politics

MPs named over written-off expenses

Houses of Parliament Image copyright Getty Images

The Commons expenses watchdog has published a list of MPs who it says have failed to repay expenses debt - but several have contested its claims.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority initially released 26 names, including ministers Tobias Ellwood, Edward Timpson and Caroline Dinenage.

It later said some MPs had provided clarifying information or repaid the sums, which totalled £2,105.43.

No 10 said David Cameron expected ministers to clear any debts.

A spokesman for Mr Timpson said he would repay the outstanding amount, while Mr Ellwood's office said the claim of £26.50 for parking, train fares, food and drink had been settled.

Ipsa said Ms Dinenage had provided further information about a claim of £13.50 it said had been written off, and there was no amount needing to be repaid by the MP.

Meanwhile the watchdog said the overall bill for MPs' expenses and costs rose to almost £106m in 2014-15.

This was an increase of £1.7m on the previous financial year.

It includes money claimed for staffing and office costs, travel and accommodation - but not MPs' salaries.

Not cost-effective

The total amount written off by the expenses watchdog over the 12-month period was £2,105.43.

MPs' amounts ranged from £7.50 to £309. The reasons they were not paid by Ipsa included because they were outside the allowances scheme or that they were duplicate claims.

Much of the spending was on official credit cards that are automatically paid off by Ipsa before checks on whether they are allowable.

Ipsa said the amounts had been written off because it was not cost-effective to continue to pursue them.

It said MPs were contacted "four times at least" before being named for failing to pay the amounts.

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Tobias Ellwood's office said the claim had now been settled

A spokesman for Mr Timpson, minister for children and families and Crewe and Nantwich MP, said he would be repaying £127.70 wrongly claimed for travel expenses "today".

However, Ipsa later said that an error in its system meant Mr Timpson's name had been wrongly included on the list, and it apologised for the mistake.

Ms Dinenage, Junior Minster for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, said she did not owe any money and Ipsa had made a mistake. Ipsa said: "Ms Dinenage has provided Ipsa with further information earlier today. The £13.50 charge that was identified as a debt is no longer owed."

The office of Chris Skidmore, parliamentary private secretary to Chancellor George Osborne, said he was happy to repay the outstanding £125 for a London hotel and had already done so.

Labour MP for Gateshead, Ian Mearns, told the BBC he had paid back the £10 expenses debt to Ipsa.

Daniel Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he was unaware £229.62 was outstanding in his name or that it had been written off. He said it concerned an invoice from BT that had not been received by Ipsa, so a second copy was now being sent to the watchdog to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, Ipsa said Conservative MP for Warrington South David Mowat had provided additional information about his outstanding expenses and therefore the amount was no longer owed.

The watchdog revised down an initial figure it said Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, had failed to pay - from £161.09 to £32.60, which it said had now been repaid. Mr Opperman said he was "extremely disappointed" at Ipsa.

Travel costs

Ipsa has also published information on whom MPs employ, with the figures showing that 169 gave work to their partners, family members or business associates in 2014-15.

Under the rules, MPs are allowed to employ one connected party within the salary scales set by the expenses watchdog.

Details of MPs' property and office landlords has also been made available.

Of the total amount spent by MPs during 2014-15, £82.7m went on staffing - which was up £2.2m compared with the previous year. Travel and subsistence costs rose slightly, too - from almost £4.8m to £4.9m.

Office costs stood at £10.7m, which was lower than the £11.2m spent in 2013-14. Meanwhile, spending on accommodation fell from almost £7m to £6.7m.

Ipsa chief executive Marcial Boo said: "Our regular publications include every single penny claimed by MPs, so that taxpayers and voters can see for themselves how their money is spent and gain assurance that Ipsa is scrutinising MPs' expenditure on their behalf."

The regulatory body was set up to restore public confidence following the MPs pay and expenses scandal in 2009, which led to the jailing of a number of politicians.

The original list published by Ipsa:

Barry Gardiner (Labour, Brent North) - £77.30

Caroline Dinenage (Conservative, Gosport) - £13.50

Charles Hendry (Conservative, Wealden - until May 2015) - £87.60

Chris Skidmore (Conservative, Kingswood) - £125.00

Clive Efford (Labour, Eltham) - £79.20

Daniel Poulter (Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) - £229.62

Edward Timpson (Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich) - £127.70

Frank Dobson (Labour, Holborn and St Pancras - until May 2015) - £7.50

Frank Roy (Labour, Motherwell and Wishaw - until May 2015) - £63.37

Guy Opperman (Conservative, Hexham) - £161.09

Ian Mearns (Labour, Gateshead) - £10.00

Joe Benton (Labour, Bootle - until May 2015) - £309.15

Julie Hilling (Labour, Bolton West - until May 2015) - £75.30

Khalid Mahmood (Labour, Birmingham Perry Barr) - £36.00

David Mowat (Conservative, Warrington South) - £35.00

Laurence Robertson (Conservative, Tewkesbury) - £27.00

Michael Meacher (Labour, Oldham West and Royton) - £27.00

Paul Farrelly (Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme) - £28.00

Peter Bone (Conservative, Wellingborough) - £40.17

Sian James (Labour, Swansea East - until May 2015) - £193.00

Stephen Barclay (Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire) - £62.75

Stephen McCabe (Labour, Birmingham Selly Oak) - £27.00

Stephen Williams (Liberal Democrat, Bristol West - until May 2015) - £209.18

Stewart Jackson (Conservative, Peterborough) - £7.50

Tim Yeo (Conservative, South Suffolk - until May 2015) £10.00

Tobias Ellwood (Conservative, Bournemouth East) - £26.50

Update 11 September 2015: This report has been amended to include Ipsa's later acknowledgement that Edward Timpson's name had been on the list because of an error in its system.

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