Comet country MPs speak out about expenses

MPs in Comet country have been talking about the parliamentary expenses scandal which has gripped the nation s attention. MP for Stevenage, Barbara Follett, is at the centre of the storm, after her expenses claims were made public at the weekend. Mrs Foll

MPs in Comet country have been talking about the parliamentary expenses scandal which has gripped the nation's attention.

MP for Stevenage, Barbara Follett, is at the centre of the storm, after her expenses claims were made public at the weekend.

Mrs Follett has claimed more than �25,000 for security patrols around her second home in Soho after she was mugged and followed by a stalker.

She claimed a �937 annual insurance premium for art on display at her 18th century London town house, and �384 to clean the eight chimneys in the four-storey house.


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She also claimed �528.75 for a Chinese needlepoint rug to be repaired and cleaned, but was only given �300 after it was deemed excessive.

Mrs Follett said: "It is of the utmost importance that our democracy is transparent and accountable. It is why I have published a breakdown of my expenses on my website for several years now.

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"I have absolutely no objection to the claims I make against the allowances I am entitled to as an MP being made public.

"I have put far more into running my constituency advice office and helping the people Stevenage then I have ever got out of my allowances and salary put together. I'm glad to do so because they deserve it."

North East Herts Tory MP Oliver Heald is confident he will not attract media interest when it comes to his expenses being made public.

"I don't think mine will attract national newspaper coverage," said Mr Heald.

"I believe the system is rotten to the core and in need of reform.

"I believe the current system needs a complete overhaul and I support the wide-ranging review now being undertaken by the committee on Standards in Public Life."

He said he claims Additional Costs' Allowance to pay for accommodation in London. He claims allowance for mortgage interest and for household costs.

Mr Heald added: "I have never had a flat screen TV. I have never 'flipped' my main home designation. I did pay capital gains tax on moving in 2003."

Mid Beds Conservative MP Nadine Dorries said she is "delighted" her expenses claims will be published in July.

"Despite having been inundated with 100 per cent mortgage offers when I became an MP, I have not used any allowances to purchase a property or pay a mortgage," she said. "I have only ever rented both my office and accommodation."

She added: "A nurses' home type accommodation block in Westminster would be the ideal solution and end the whole messy thing."

Tory MP for North East Beds Alistair Burt said "the people's anger is understandable" and he thinks "all MPs are shamed and disappointed at what has emerged in relation to parliamentary expenses." He said the public deserves an apology.

Mr Burt rents a flat near the House of Commons and says rent and council tax take up the entire �24,000 allowance.

"I have no material gain from the allowance," he said, "purely the practical one of being able to stay in London overnight whenever I need to."

Peter Lilley, Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, would not comment on his own expenses, but said the current system needed reform.

He said: "I hope the House will publish all the details, the sooner the better.

"As I have always said, the present system is wrong. MPs should receive a fixed amount, set independently and taxable, to cover the reasonable cost of having to have a second home.

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