Expenses for MPs hit a record of £95m prior to scandal
BRITISH MPS were claiming record sums of money from the UK taxpayer until the final moment that the expenses scandal erupted.
The total bill for their allowances jumped by almost 3pc to £95.6m (€110m) in 2008-09, an average of almost £150,000 (€172,000) for each MP. The last financial year ended just four weeks before details of the extent of abuse of expenses emerged, plunging Westminster into crisis and marking the end of lax controls on claims.
The most expensive politician last year was Mohammed Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, who received £192,986.87 (€221,301.09). His claim included £31,310 (€35,907) of travel claims and £99,104.72 (€113,653) for staffing costs. He was followed by Roger Godsiff, the Labour MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath with £189,337.89 (€217,137.11) and Angus Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray with £188,164.16 (€217,135.37).
Westminster's expenses bill rose by £2.7m (€3.09m) on the previous year's total of £92.9m (€106.5m), which was itself an inflation-busting rise of 6pc on 2006-07.
Details of last year's allowance payments came as former senior civil servant Thomas Legg published his long-awaited audit of every claim by MPs for their second homes over five years. He instructed 390 current and former MPs to pay back a total of just over £1.3m (€1.5m), a figure that was reduced to £1.1m (€1.26m) after several successful appeals by MPs. More than half the 752 politicians whose claims he examined were judged to have overclaimed.
Mr Legg's damning verdict comes as the country's Crown Prosecution Service prepares to announce today whether charges will be brought over allegations of serious expenses fraud against a small number of MPs and peers.
In the foreword to his report, Mr Legg launched a withering attack on the "deeply flawed" rules for claiming for second homes, accusing deferential Commons officials of turning a blind eye to the abuse of the system.
He pinned some of the blame on former MP Michael Martin, who resigned as Commons Speaker last May amid widespread anger over his handling of the crisis. The fees office had been "vulnerable to the influence of higher authorities in the House of Commons, from the Speaker down, and of individual MPs," Mr Legg protested. "These influences tended more towards looking after the immediate interests of MPs than to safeguarding propriety in public expenditure," he said.
He also condemned the "vague" rules governing expenses claims and the failure by many MPs to produce the paperwork to justify large claims.
The biggest single repayment will be made by Barbara Follett, the local government minister, who has returned £42,458.21 (€48,691.48), most of which was spent on security patrols outside her home.
She said the expenses saga had been "a sad and sorry episode in Britain's political life which I deeply regret". ( © Independent News Service)