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And like all MPs, from all parties, I also qualify to claim a mind-boggling array of extras ..... those controversial expenses that have got some MPs into a big heap of bother.
Well it is YOUR money, so you deserve to know what I’m spending it on. The figures for every MP in the UK are published by Parliament. But I am the first MP in the UK to let people know as soon as I know. I started publishing my expenses on this website three years ago.
It is not a secret and you are welcome to look at the list, compare me with others and get in touch if you don't like what you see. Parliament publishes all MPs detailed expenses. Mine can be viewed by clicking this link:
Rigorous investigations have been undertaken into Parliamentary expenses.
All claims of all MPs have been pored over by Sir Thomas Legg an appointee of the Prime Minister.
Sir Thomas Legg thought he found fault with my claims for mortgage payments. He queried a sum of just under £3000 incurred over several years. But after I submitted full bank statements Sir Thomas withdrew his query. I also claimed around three hundred and fifty pounds above what Sir Thomas considers reasonable for hiring a cleaner (the money went to the cleaner, not me) Sir Thomas set the rules entirely on his own. My cleaner is actually worth her weight in gold. But I have already repaid £350 in full.
I employ a wonderfully efficient Executive Secretary and Office Manager, Claire, who keeps the wheels oiled properly in Bridgwater. I have also taken on three extra part-time hands to deal with the growing workload - one in Bridgwater, two in West Somerset. I use a researcher in London to keep me briefed and my long-suffering wife Jill works for me in a Secretarial capacity in London and the constituency.
I drive a diesel car and clock up a huge annual mileage in and around the area. I usually drive to London but occasionally take the train. My wife is entitled to a limited number of rail tickets between the Constituency and Westminster - that is fair enough, she has an important job to do. The table also shows totals for staff travel to and from Bridgwater. Train fares are not cheap.
(nb: Two of my three children have researchers' security passes for Westminster. This doesn't mean that I am using them for research work. It is simply a device to enable them to enter the Palace of Westminster when they are in London. They are entitled, under the current rules, to travel to London on a strictly limited basis to visit me. MPs spouses automatically get "access" passes. Unfortunately no such system exists for children (maybe it should?) Quite a few MPs put their children down as researchers just to enable them to get in and out of the place. But I don't pay my children a bean out of my Parliamentary allowances. Not a penny.
If you ask me to reveal the precise remuneration of each of my employees I will politely decline. The House of Commons voted to declare only the figure paid out of public funds for total staff costs. Members of my team are not elected representatives. As private citizens they have the right to decide what to disclose. If they choose to tell you how much they get paid, fair enough.
But, like Civil Servants (who are also remunerated out of public funds) they have a right to privacy. I am happy to let you know the pay scales into which each member of my team fits. You can read the details for yourself in this document, which lists the pay scales:
The whole business of Parliamentary expenses is controversial. Parliament itself is changing the rules - toughening up. The old rules have been far too flexible. This is what has got so many members into hot water. Read the old rules here:
A few other perks you have a right to know about: The system provides financial help with buying a London property (I now own a small ex-council flat in Lambeth as well as my family home in West Somerset. I bought the London flat because it was unfair on my friends in the capital having to tolerate a political lodger four nights every week!) I have claimed the interest on the mortgage I took out when I bought the property. I have never "flipped" - or transferred - my main residence. London is and always will be a second home. I did install a new loo because the old one was cracked when I moved in. But I did not set out to make any money out of the system and if and when I leave the House of Commons I do not consider it right that I should make any capital gain on this flat.
The sums that MPs will be able to claim in future are already being lowered drastically. I will abide by these change to the letter.
I did not invent this expenses system. In fact I think it is crazy. MPs themselves should not set their own pensions, salaries and expenses. It should be taken out of our hands. I want to be seen as squeaky clean and I would much rather operate under a system that said – “here you are, here’s a decent salary, but NO perks. What you spend is up to you, but don’t expect any extras”
That is why I was the first MP in Britain to publish details of my pay and expenses in 2004.
People have the right to know where the money goes.
I will campaign to alter the way such money is allocated, because I think the existing system risks giving all MPs a bad name.
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It is refreshing to know that the national newspapers keep an eye on my website - witness this story about MPs expenses from the Sunday Times, published on October 30th 2005:
In addition to the annual publication of MPs expenses there is also the Register of Members Interests which lists business, financial or property interests that any MP may have (over and above their salaries as MPs and their homes) My entry is enticingly sparse. Apart from one trip to the USA, I list "farm buildings in Scotland". I should, perhaps (for the benefit of those who imagine me as a member of the landed gentry) have added one telling but accurate word: "derelict" !
©2003,2004 Ian Liddell-Grainger. All rights reserved. www.somersetwest.org.uk