And they say “We are all in it together” ????
Dozens of MPs who repaid money amid public outrage at their expenses claims were quietly refunded under a secret deal with the Commons authorities, it has emerged.
They include Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, who pocketed £4.47 which she had voluntarily returned after The Daily Telegraph disclosed that she had billed the public purse for dog food.
Sir John Butterfill, a former Conservative backbencher, received £15,000 back after previously announcing that he would return money which he had received to help run the servants’ quarters at his Surrey mansion.
The MPs were offered the expenses deals following the Legg audit of claims dating back to 2004 which was ordered in the wake of the expenses scandal.
Under the terms of the review’s remit – which was determined by the MPs themselves – the audit team could only ask for money back if claims were in breach of the notoriously lax rules at the time.
As many MPs had voluntarily repaid sums in excess of the amounts identified by Sir Thomas Legg, head of the audit, they were secretly offered the opportunity to claim the money back.
Figures released following a Freedom of Information request show that 26 MPs applied for the refunds.
Evidence of the issues comes after the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) announced it is “actively considering” giving MPs freer rein over budgets again, and checking their spending retrospectively.
The Commons authorities had previously only published partial details of the mass payback that ensued when abuses became public two years ago.
But they have now spelt out the sums returned by each politician, including travel and office expenses as well as notorious spending on second homes.
The material released shows that Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, also benefited from a rebate.
As the scandal broke he repaid £3,618.42. That included £1,757 claimed for a property purchase with his brother, and £500 for phone bills and excess rent.
He argued that MPs were “well paid” and had to take responsibility for errors by the Fees Office.
However, according to the Commons, the member for Birmingham Hodge Hill later asked for £1,349.41 back after Sir Thomas demanded just £111.84 for mobile telephone costs.
Other disclosure to come from today’s documents include the fact that Tony Blair returned £388 in unspecified second home expenses last March – his only repayment.
Mr Blair, who has made millions since leaving Downing Street, was criticised for claiming thousands of pounds for renovating his second home days before quitting as an MP.
Liberal Democrat Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander repaid £1,933.29 in mortgage interest in the run-up to the general election.