MP defends �655 'love seat' expenses claims

THE ESSEX MP who helped bring about the downfall of the Commons Speaker Michael Martin has said he is “not concerned” after his expense claims came under the spotlight.

James Hore

THE ESSEX MP who helped bring about the downfall of the Commons Speaker Michael Martin has said he is “not concerned” after his expense claims came under the spotlight.

Douglas Carswell, the Harwich MP, helped make parliamentary history last month when he forced the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons, saying that in the eyes of the public “Westminster stinks”.

But yesterday the Conservative MP's expense claim for a “love seat” was featured as part of the Daily Telegraph's expense files expose.

It emerged Mr Carswell, who was elected in 2005, used his second home claims to purchase a �655 “Maximus” love seat from sofa.com.

According to the paper, he also claimed �1,605 for two sofas and �1,483 for a bed, mattress and chairs.

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However, Mr Carswell said he would be happy to explain each and every one of his claims to his constituents, adding he was in the minority of MPs who did not use taxpayers' money to pay for a mortgage.

And he said that he had also attempted to commute to London before deciding it was too costly, resulting in the decision to nominate his house in Thorpe Le Soken as a second home in March 2007, saying he needed a “base in his home and the constituency”.

He said: “90% of the items that are in the property were paid for out of my own pocket and I think it is not unreasonable under those circumstances to get a few basic items and I believe those can be justified.

“I am more than happy to have details in the public domain - listed item by item for the past financial year. I don't think any of those items were top of the range luxury items.

“The items are pretty basic and I need to have that house in order to do my job.

“I am not a rich man and do need to have some recourse to public allowance to meet the costs of doing my job.

“With hindsight, I would not have bought an armchair called the 'love seat', but if someone trawls through my expenses for the past four years and it is the name of an armchair that is making headlines, I am not that concerned.

“At no point have I ever used my allowance to do up a property I own.

“There are 650ish MPs in the House and only 130 of us rent - all the others use their second home allowance to pay mortgages and I would like to emphasise that point - I have not used public money for a property I own.”

He said a property he owns in Hertfordshire does not generate income because a member of his family lives in it rent free.

Last month, Mr Carswell told the EADT he expected to get “some stick” after revealing he claimed more than �2,500 in expenses for food at his second home in a single year.

But he said he felt so uncomfortable at the current allowances system he felt duty bound to publish his expenses on the internet.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk