What our MPs say about their claims
Leicestershire's MPs whose detailed expenses have not yet been published have spoken for the first time about their own claims.
Trimming hedges, new furniture, mortgage payments and rents have all been paid for from their second home allowances but none believe that any have been excessive.
The Leicester Mercury sent them a list of questions about MPs expenses asking them for their take on the scandal and whether they believe they too could receive criticism when details are published officially in the next two months.
All the MPs, except Blaby representative Andrew Robathan, and Leicester East's Keith Vaz responded to the request. All say they are happy for their full expenses to be published in this summer, and some say they may reveal their claims themselves in the coming weeks.
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What claims have you made within second home allowances?
Are you concerned that any of them will be will be considered excessive in any way?
What do you think about those MPs whose claims have been shown to be excessive?
What do you think should happen to them?
This week Melton and Rutland MP Alan Duncan apologised and paid back £5,000 after coming under fire for making claims to pay for 16-hours a week of gardening at his constituency home.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz was also criticised for making claims on his second homes totalling more than £80,000 over four years, which included £480 on 22 cushions.
He is said to have claimed more than £69,000 for a flat in Westminster, despite his family home being a £1.15 million house just 12 miles from Parliament between 2004 and 2007.
SIR PETER SOULSBY
"My main home is in the heart of my constituency, where I have lived with my family for over 30 years. I make no claims for this home.
"Whilst in London I live in a flat within walking distance of Westminster.
"After the first year renting, I have chosen to buy a flat rather than rent. The total costs per year are a bit higher than the allowance so I make up the difference from my salary.
"Most of the allowance is used on interest payments on a fixed-rate mortgage. When setting up the flat, as a matter of policy, I chose to buy some furniture rather than to use the allowance for a number of smaller items where receipts and tax might not have been necessary.
"Now the flat is set up, I only use the allowance for mortgage interest. I pay all the service charges, maintenance, council tax and electricity myself. I have never claimed for food for myself or submitted unreceipted claims.
"I believe all MPs will have to answer their electors for the way in which they have used allowances."
"When I became MP I claimed for mortgage payments on my home in Leicester. I did claim for a gardener to trim the hedge every couple of months or so. In 2005, we sold that home when the children grew up and paid 40 per cent capital gains tax on the profit. I now rent a flat and paid for a new sofa and armchair from Habitat and blinds from John Lewis. I do not think those were excessive and do not wish to comment on any other MPs' cases.
"I hope it would be generally accepted that MPs who live in out-of-London constituencies should have somewhere to stay in London while the House of Commons is in session. Equally, I would hate to go back to the days when MPs whose family home was in London had to stay in a hotel or their agent's spare room when in their constituency.
"But the system of paying an allowance for this purpose is comprehensively discredited. I would therefore take the same approach as for constituency offices, with Parliament buying or renting furnished accommodation for MPs' use.
"For me, what matters most is not what system we end up with, but how we decide it. All of us who are MPs share the responsibility for this mess. When so much damage is done to public confidence in Parliament, we should ask the public to help us to put things right."
"I have claimed for a small one bedroom flat for the four days per week I spend away from family working in Westminster. This is the purpose of the allowance. I have said for years it should be a flat overnight rate based on a middle civil service rate.
"The full set of receipts are being published online soon – so everybody will be able to see them. I have published my costs online for years.
"I have often tried to buy items from Ikea, Argos, and B&Q sales etc but as the media now question 88p bath plugs I am sure people will make up their own mind.
"The flat needs to be liveable for four days per week and has been used for 11 years. I have made it habitable and functional.
"Individual MPs will need to make decisions about their actions.
"The House authorities will have to take appropriate action dependent upon the offence."
"All my second home allowance goes on renting my second home.
"I pay the council tax and have either bought furniture or inherited it. I pay a part-time gardener myself and mow my own lawn.
"What other MPs do is between them and their electorates and it would be unfair to comment in ignorance of their arrangements."
"The value of my claims has been published by the House of Commons and appeared in your newspaper on March 31.
"As far as I am aware each of the claims I have made reflects appropriate expenditure. As you know plans are being made for publication of more detailed information.
"I support this development and will make this information available at the appropriate time."
"All expense claims will be fully in the public domain in early to mid June. We are being advised to put them online earlier and I would like to do that. Will any of my claims be seen to be excessive? Well I don't know. I think there will be people who believe some aspects of the claims like furniture and fittings for flats are unacceptable under any circumstances. That's something we all have to deal with.
"I do believe that any claim found to be excessive should be struck through and the person responsible made to pay it back. But it is not just that, it is the 'flipping' (where MPs switch the home they are claiming for) that has to be dealt with."
"My expenses are with the finance office and I plan to publish them as soon as possible. No there's nothing that I am worried about. I have claimed for a mortgage with my second home allowances on the same property since 1997 and have done no 'flipping'.
"I do not know the personal circumstances of the people who have been criticised and they have acted as they think appropriate.
"There must be a full investigation carried out. We are only part way through this saga and we will have to see what happens at the end."
See his response.
A written request asking whether Mr Vaz would be paying any his expenses claims back was ignored by his office yesterday. Two requests for an interview have also been rejected this week.