Legg passes judgement on expenses

4 February 2010

Sir Thomas Legg today published his long awaited audit of MPs expenses claims.  Here is FullFact's 10 point guide to the report.

1. Overall, 390 MPs have been asked to repay a total of £1.12m leaving an average repayment of £2,872, for those asked to pay money back, or £1,489 when the rest of the 752 MPs investigated are taken into account.

Claims ranged from the £42,458 claimed by culture minister Barbara Follet to the 40p Labour's Mike Gapes was deemed to owe after his appeal.

2. Despite the repayments, the taxpayer has still ended up out of pocket. Legg calls for repayments totalling £1.12m, whereas his report estimates the cost of the review process at £1.16m. Thanks to the appeals upheld by Sir Paul Kennedy, the process did not break even.

3. In the cabinet, Gordon Brown lead the way repaying just over £13,000, which accounted for 40% of total repayments from the cabinet.

4. Mr Brown also led the way when it came to party leaders, with both David Cameron and Nick Clegg repaying below average sums of £965 and £989 respectively.

5. It's interesting to note that some MPs have paid back more than Legg asked of them, such as Charlotte Atkins, who despite a request for £5,434 to be repaid, handed over £10,226. Keith Vaz repaid back £18,949 instead of the £1,514 requested - over ten times what was asked of him.

Health minister Phil Hope, who back in May shocked Westminster with a £40,000 voluntary repayment on second homes expenses, could have got away with repaying a mere £4,365!

6. With about £800,000 of the £1.12m repaid there still MPs holding out on Sir Thomas. They include former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett who still owes £2,539, transport minister Paul Clark (£11,406), senior Tory David Heathcoate-Amory (£23,369) and Labour's Mike Hall (£12,639).

7. Some significant beneficiaries of Sir Paul Kennedy's appeal process are, Peter Lilley who had his repayment request of £41,057 overturned completely on appeal. Meanwhile Bernard Jenkin saw his repayment demand cut by £27,000.

8. Mortgage claims were the origin of most repayment calls and they account for more than half of the 1.3 million. Legg identified 208 'issues' around claims on mortgage repayments, totalling £711,000.

Cleaning was the second most significant source of claims now deemed unacceptable. 1 in 14 members claimed more than the £2,000 limit placed on cleaning claims by Sir Thomas.

9. In all 75 MPs appealed against Legg's rulings. Ultimately 44 were successful. This was due to a difference of interpretation between Sir Paul Kennedy, who handled the appeals and Sir Thomas Legg. Sir Paul argued the Legg review was wrong to refuse to let MPs balance out years when they had over claimed against years when they claimed less.

Similarly, Sir Paul decided that recouping claims made for rent paid to MPs family members before the practice was outlawed in 2006 was too harsh on MPs.

10. And finally… some of the more amusing claims that required repayment. Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth was told to repay £575 claimed for an antique Welsh dresser. Anthony Steen's repayment request included money claimed for a flagpole rope and binding, which was not deemed a necessity by Legg. Also deemed excessive was the £150 claimed for a vase by Labour's Harry Cohen.

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