Gummer defends payments to own firm

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer has defended his actions in claiming nearly �10,000 in expenses to pay his own company.

Richard Cornwell

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer has defended his actions in claiming nearly �10,000 in expenses to pay his own company.

Details of the payments are among the latest revelations in the expenses row.

But Mr Gummer denied he was misusing taxpayers' money - and said the cash had been used to pay for secretarial support for his own work in the House of Commons and his constituency.

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Invoices showed Mr Gummer claimed expenses for his company Sancroft, which he founded 12 years ago and gives advice to other firms on environmental, ethical and social matters.

The claims were made between 2004 and 2008 and total �9,980.

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The payments included wages of a diary secretary employed at Sancroft and who partly worked on his parliamentary business, plus money spent in recruiting the employee. He also claimed for computer equipment for the secretary.

Mr Gummer though said he had done nothing wrong and tried to do things as cheaply as possible for parliament.

“I am very careful about being extremely rigorous about the way in which I behave,” he told a national newspaper.

He could get computer communications connections cheaper by going through his company than as an individual, and said using his diary secretary to deal with both his company business and parliamentary schedule saved taxpayers' money.

“I have one diary secretary. You can't have two or you get in a terrible mess,” he is quoted as saying.

“I have always been insistent that there should be no payment by the public for anything which is other than absolutely parliamentary or constituency activity.

“Though she does almost all her work for the parliamentary and constituency side, I make sure half her salary is paid by the company.”

The EADT tried to contact Mr Gummer yesterday but he was not available.

Tomorrow, the EADT will be examining the expenses and allowances claims of Mr Gummer and fellow Conservative Tim Yeo (Suffolk South).

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