Second home expenses of MPs revealed

SUFFOLK'S MPs have claimed more than �560,000 in second home allowances in over the last four financial years, official figures have revealed.

Colin Adwent

SUFFOLK'S MPs have claimed more than �560,000 in second home allowances in over the last four financial years, official figures have revealed.

As the furore over MPs expenses continues with daily revelations and recriminations, it emerged the average amount claimed by the county's seven parliamentarians since 2004-2005 is �80,000.

The �561,196 is purely for what is known as an Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) and does not include payments for staff or travel.

Central Suffolk and Ipswich North's Sir Michael Lord, Suffolk Coastal's John Gummer, Suffolk South's Tim Yeo and Waveney's Bob Blizzard all claimed more than �87,000 in the four-year period.

Ipswich's MP Chris Mole claimed the least amount with �66,543, while Bury St Edmunds' David Ruffley claimed �67,786.

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The details have been taken from official figures.

Although some people feel the time has come to stop focussing so sharply on the claims, others believe the spotlight is entirely appropriate.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers Alliance, urged parliament to publish full details of MPs expenses as soon as possible rather than wait until July.

Despite the more highly-publicised expense claims, Mr Elliott also believes there are politicians who have enhanced their reputations over the past few weeks.

He said: “I think it's absolutely fair to continue this. We need to see how all the members of parliament have been spending our money. It's essential we have the full data out there.

“Had MPs done the right things a year ago, I think they could have said 'we are going to completely reform the system and have transparency from now on and close this chapter'.

“By MPs drawing out this process they have really brought it on themselves. I think some MPs have come out of this quite well.

“I would encourage MPs in Suffolk who have not had their expenses published to put them on their websites.”

Mr Gummer and Sir Michael have yet to reveal the details of their expenses.

Over the weekend Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams warned the "continuing systematic humiliation" of MPs threatened to do irreversible damage to public confidence in Britain's democracy.

It has emerged Mr Gummer, a former Tory cabinet minister claimed �9,000 a year for gardening. He charged the taxpayer hundreds of pounds for treating insect "infestations' and removing moles and jackdaw nests, and for an annual "rodent service'.

Tory frontbencher Mr Ruffley is reported to have “flipped” his second home from London to his constituency before claiming back thousands for furniture and fittings, including a �1,674 sofa.

He was said to have been refused the full amount when he claimed for a �2,175 television from Harrods, and also had a �6,765 claim for bedroom furniture and equipment reduced.

Mr Spring claimed �17,000 for food during the past four years, while Mr Mole claimed �1,100 for a TV, but only received the maximum allowance of �750.

There is no suggestion that any of the Suffolk MPs have broken any of the rules governing MPs' expenses claims.

Attempts to contact Mr Gummer, Mr Mole, Mr Ruffley, Sir Michael and Mr Yeo for their views yesterday were unsuccessful.

Suffolk MPs second home allowances (ACAs) 2004-5 to 2007-8

Bury St Edmunds - David Ruffley �67,786

Central Suffolk - Sir Michael Lord �87,119

Ipswich - Chris Mole �66,543

Suffolk Coastal - John Gummer �87,112

Suffolk West - Richard Spring �77,181

Suffolk South - Tim Yeo �87,729

Waveney - Bob Blizzard �87,726

Total claims �561,196