MP: I’m no crook

PUBLISHED: 11:27 14 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 23 August 2010

AB2243	09-01-06	Dartford	MP Howard Stoate, portraits

AB2243 09-01-06 Dartford MP Howard Stoate, portraits

AN MP who claims an average of £140,000 a year in expenses has blasted those who abused the system saying the scandal means they will all now be treated like crooks . Gravesham MP, Adam Holloway spoke to the Reporter about his frustration concerning the

Date: 25.04.08

Adam Holloway and local MP's hold a press conference about the Dartford Toll crossing

Ref:  Pictures by  Andy Barnes

AN MP who claims an average of £140,000 a year in expenses has blasted those who abused the system saying the scandal means they will all now be 'treated like crooks'.

Gravesham MP, Adam Holloway spoke to the Reporter about his frustration concerning the investigation in to allowances paid to MPs with taxpayers' money.

From May 2005 to March last year he claimed £418,186 for staff salaries, travel expenses, office costs and a second home in the borough, an average of £139,395 a year.

With detailed breakdowns of expenses due to be published in July, Conservative MP Mr Holloway, fears even those who have behaved responsibly are likely to be damaged by the actions of others.

He said: "What makes me really angry about it is those of us who have used the allowances for what they have been designed for are going to get tarred by the same brush.

"The problem is in the current environment any claim at all is considered to be questionable. There are people who argue, for example, that if there are constituents commuting to London every day why are you claiming a second house allowance?

"The key headline piece here is that we are all being treated like crooks."

MPs are currently entitled to claim up to £24,006 for the expense of staying away from home with many MPs choosing to have a second home. They also claim for staff wages with Team Holloway - consisting of Finnian Rook, constituency director, responsible for casework; Michael Vearncombe, parliamentary director, who handles the Westminster diary and parliamentary work; Janice Small, Gravesham constituency communications director and Adam Foster, a senior parliamentary researcher.

In February last year Mr Holloway told the Reporter an overhaul of the Commons' allowance system and greater openness of members' who employ relatives was needed. The exclusive interview came after it was revealed that Old Bexley and Sidcup MP Derek Conway had paid his son nearly £50,000 over three years with no evidence of work.

But Holloway also said he needs more than the £84,236 for staff he already receives in order to deal with the number of queries from residents.

He said: "I am sure there are people taking liberties, it must have happened, and probably still does, but I think employing family is quite good value.

"I have people that work for me that come in at nine and leave at six, where as family members would become totally involved in the work.

"My issue is that I just don't have enough money to spend on staff."

His outburst comes after a series of documents leaked by the Daily Telegraph exposed the shocking allowance claims of a number of top politicians.

Among the claims revealed were Labour MP for Luton South Margaret Moran's £22,500 claim to treat dry rot at her husband's seaside home in Southampton, 100 miles from her constituency; chairman of the Conservatives policy review team Oliver Letwin's claim for £2,000 to replace a leaking pipe under a tennis court and shadow universities secretary David Willetts' claim for more than £100 for builders to replace 25 light bulbs at his home.

Dr Howard Stoate, Dartford MP, claimed £410,382 over the same period and MP for Sevenoaks Michael Fallon £347,840.

Despite the size of the claims Mr Holloway says the figures can be misleading and claims he has nothing to hide.

Defending his expenses bill, he furiously said: "When they see the £400,000 figure people will think that goes straight into my pocket, not that 10 metres away I have an office of people working with me.

"Adding it up is not comparing like with like. How am I supposed to deal with 80 or 90 letters and 150 e-mails a day let alone my parliamentary work without having staff?

"All the weekends that I have worked is all going to be for nothing thanks to this. If you have done the right thing and used them from the correct purposes then you are still going to get screwed."

After the embarrassing details were released both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron publicly apologised for the way some MPs have abused their allowance payments.

On Tuesday Mr Cameron ordered his shadow cabinet to return money given for controversial claims vowing himself to repay £680 claimed to remove wisteria and vines from his chimney.

Shortly after Labour followed his lead announcing their MPs will also be required to pay back certain expenses.

Mr Holloway added: "All I can do as a back bench MP is get elected, do my job and use the allowances for the purpose they were designed.

"Maybe MPs should continue to be paid a middle-management salary and work a 40-hour week like everybody else."

Despite the massive figure Dartford MP, Dr Howard Stoate, who also runs a surgery in Bexleyheath and Sevenoaks MP, Michael Fallon, who sits on the Treasury Select Committee, remained silent about the expenses scandal engulfing all three parties.

Repeated attempts were made by the Reporter news desk to call the mobile phones and offices of MPs who represent residents in the Kentish Times Newspapers series areas but both failed to justify their claims.

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Dartford Gareth Johnson said: "There are MPs from all parties that have done wrong and we do need a restoration of faith. I think it's fair to say that the public's trust in politicians has been considerably shaken."

From the general election in June 2001 until the last audit in March 2008 Dartford MP, Dr Howard Stoate has claimed £839,201 allowances on staff salaries, travel expenses, office costs and a second home in the borough.

Sevenoaks MP, Michael Fallon has claimed less at £739,376, but with the £398,745 received by both in salary payments the duo have cost taxpayers £2,376,067 from 2001 to 2008. Having both been elected in the 1997 general election, and although data this far back is not published, if they claimed a similar amount it means altogether Mr Fallon has claimed about £1,162,000 and Dr Stoate £1,132,000. In addition both have received another £635,487 in salary payments which have risen by almost 50 per cent from £43,860 a year in 1997 to £61,820 last year. In total this means the two have cost taxpayers about £3.5million since they became an MP.

Reporter JASON GOODYER looks at the

history of MPs salaries and expenses

IN the late 18th and 19th centuries being an MP was not considered a fulltime job and those attending the House of Commons were not paid for their work.

Following pressure from the Labour party a yearly allowance of £400 was introduced in a vote of 265 to 173 in 1911, but it was not until the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937 that MPs were awarded a proper salary. Although it proved controversial the move to start paying members helped with both the democratisation and professionalism of politics as it no longer meant that political activity was reserved for the wealthy.

With the introduction of a regular salary MPs retained to right to claim allowances and although subject to a number of changes the system has remained similar to this day. Currently MPs are paid a salary of £64,766 but are also entitled to claim a number of allowances to cover the costs of hiring staff, running an office, travelling and living away from home.

Information on what can and cannot be claimed for is laid out in the 66-page official guide to members' allowances known as the Green Book. The rules are drafted by civil servants belonging to the Department of Resources, an administrative department of the House of Commons.

They are then amended and approved each year by up to three cross-party committees of MPs.

It is the job of the Department of Resources to check through the claims and make sure the rules are being followed.

What they've spent so far...

Here we show how much each north Kent MP has claimed in Member's Allowance Expenditure for second home allowances, staffing, office cost and travel during their time in office.

Averages have been worked out from the past four financial years of published expenses, the first of these being 2004-05. The total number is these four year's worth added together. Starting with the biggest spenders (according to average) first:

Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has claimed £418,186 since being elected in May 2005, an average of £139,395 a year.

Howard Stoate, MP for Dartford, has claimed £839, 201 since 2001, an average of £119,886 a year.

Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks, has claimed £739, 376 since 2001, an average of £105,625 a year.

Chris Pond, former MP for Gravesham, claimed £480, 610 from 2001 to 2005, an average of £120,153 a year.

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