MPs expenses revealed

Posted: 02/04/09

Katie Davies

PARLIAMENTARY politicians in Barnet, Camden, Westminster and Haringey have each cost taxpayers up to £220,000 in the last year, according to new figures.

Staff, stationery and travel costs claimed by MPs, added to their basic salaries of £63,291, have pushed up the amount the public spends into a hefty six-figure sum for each politician.

The MP with the highest price tag was Finchley and Golders Green's Rudi Vis, who cost taxpayers £220,019, while the cheapest MP in the area was Frank Dobson, who cost £161,131 last year.

Hornsey and Wood Green's Lynne Featherstone cost £192,722 and Hampstead and Highgate's Glenda Jackson cost £187,344, excluding £12,740 paid in maternity cover for a member of her staff.

Westminster's politicians Karen Buck (Labour) and Mark Field (Conservative) cost £196,525 and £194,362 respectively.

The report comes amid mounting public anger at parliamentary expense scandals including that of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who apologised this week after mistakenly claiming the online rental fee for adult films bought by her husband. She has also been criticised for getting more than £20,000 a year in a second home allowance for her family home.

Ms Smith claims a room in her sister's property in London is her main residence - enabling her to claim the allowance for her larger West Midlands home where her husband and children live.

MPs in inner London constituencies such as Westminster and Hampstead and Highgate are banned from the second home allowance and earn a £2,812 flat fee instead.

But despite only representing a constituency five minutes up the road, Dr Vis can claim through the scheme and was revealed to be using the loophole this week.

Last year, the Labour MP charged the taxpayer £23,083 in mortgage payments for a property in Suffolk, as a second home to the flat he still owns in East Finchley.

A spokesman said Dr Vis was recently forced to buy the house because his wife is unwell.

"Rudi's expenses are high because his wife is very ill and was advised by her doctors to live outside London," his spokesman said. "He had to move his family out of London and get a home in the country as well as paying for his flat in East Finchley. It is also why his travel costs are so high.

Lib Dem Ms Featherstone claimed £1,252 last year, mostly in petrol, and Ms Buck claimed £1,077 for train fares. Ms Jackson claimed £0, using her freedom pass for travel.

Stationery and postage also left the taxpayer with a large bill. Dr Vis spent £6,734, Ms Buck £6,996, Ms Jackson £3,560 and Mr Dobson £2,529. Mr Field and Ms Featherstone topped the bill for communication costs, spending £14,014 and £11,924.

MPs defended their costs to the Ham&High this week. Ms Featherstone said: "These expenses are for paying my office expenses and staff - they are par for the course.

"I always find it strange when people get cross about staff expenses because they want their MP to get back to them and we have up to 400 emails and telephone calls a day."

Ms Buck said: "I have a high number of people who contact me and that's all I use stationery for. My staff are paid in the low £20,000s - I couldn't expect people to work for less than that."

Glenda Jackson defended the cost of her office but said she now thinks rules on expenses should be changed and that high-profile scandals were causing "enormous amount of damage to parliament".