Gummer defends expenses as 'good deal'

DIRTY chimneys and mole hills at his country home have helped rank John Gummer's second home claims among the most talked about in the files of MPs expenses.

Graham Dines

DIRTY chimneys and mole hills at his country home have helped rank John Gummer's second home claims among the most talked about in the files of MPs expenses.

Since losing office as a cabinet minister in the Labour landslide of 1997, the Suffolk Coastal MP has established himself as one of the UK's leading consultants to big business on environmental affairs.

One of the last remaining grandees of the Conservative Party, John Gummer has a home in London but it is his property near Debenham which he has designated as his second home for the purposes of parliamentary claims.

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Apart from the moles and chimneys that need sweeping, he has charged several repairs to the taxpayers over the past five years, including blocked drains, central heating servicing, dripping taps, a broken television, gardening maintenance, and property cleaning.

Mr Gummer said yesterday: “Work has to be done at the home and it is not feasible for me to do it at weekends when I am travelling all over what is one of the largest constituencies in the country.

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“Since The Daily Telegraph first published my details in its expenses files, I have had no critical letters or comments from constituents. In fact, many people have come up to me to say they want me looking after their interests, including the latest fight to save Ipswich Hospital, rather than having to spend every weekend doing repairs.

“One old boy said: 'We want you out and about in Suffolk Coastal, not rodding your drains or cutting your lawns.'

“I only charge the taxpayer genuine second home costs. I could claim for mileage touring the constituency but I don't. I have never claimed for food or furniture.”

His expenses claims have shown that he billed the taxpayers for �10,000 of expenses incurred by his environmental consultancy company Sancroft, including secretarial work and telecommunications.

Mr Gummer said: “It works to the advantage of the taxpayers, which is why the arrangement was approved by the Commons Fees Office.

“I am 600th out of 646 MPs for the amount of money I claim for staffing. My diary secretary at Sancroft does an invaluable job looking after my constituency and parliamentary engagements, and I only recharge the taxpayer for half of her time even though she spends more than that in connection with my work as an MP.

“Sancroft is responsible for paying all her telephone calls and office costs. The taxpayer doesn't pay a penny towards this,” said Mr Gummer. “It is a very good deal for the taxpayers.”

John Gummer's additional costs allowance (second home costs) from 2004-5 to 2007-8: �87,112

Incidental expenses provision over the same period: �62,086

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