UK Politics

MPs' expenses: Minister's video claim rejected

Francis Maude
Image caption Francis Maude says he has a word with his children

A cabinet minister's children almost landed him in hot water over his expenses after they paid to watch a TV film without telling him.

The £3.95 cost of the Sherlock Holmes film was included in Francis Maude's expenses claim but was rejected by the Parliamentary watchdog.

Mr Maude said his children had promised to tell him if they bought films again.

It came as the latest batch of MPs' expense claims showed MPs were paid £3.2m in November and December 2010.

The figures - from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) - show a further £9,998 of claims submitted by 44 MPs were refused Ipsa from the same period.

'Closer look'

In a statement, Cabinet Office minister Mr Maude - who is in charge of cutting costs across Whitehall - said he had submitted a claim for a combined TV and internet package at his London home, relating to costs incurred in September.

"I was informed by Ipsa that they had rejected a portion of the claim.

"A quick investigation showed that unbeknownst to me, my daughters had purchased an on-demand film - Sherlock Holmes.

"Ipsa were right to reject £3.95 for the film and I should have taken a closer look at the bill.

"My children have assured me that if they purchase on-demand films again, they'll let me know so that I don't unwittingly put the claim through."

Mr Maude is not the first senior politician to face potential embarrasment after a family member paid to watch a video without their knowledge.

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith came in for flak in 2009 when it emerged her husband had made a Parliamentary expenses claim for pornographic films.

In total, 26,500 expenses claims were submitted in November and December, Thursday's figures show, although many may relate to previous months.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood was paid the most during the two month period - £14,105.

Cabinet bill

The Bournemouth East MP was also among those who had claims turned down - in his case £59 for a bicycle repair which he was told was not covered by his travel allowance.

Labour MP for Bolton North East, David Crausby, was the next biggest recipient, being paid £14,091 over the period.

The smallest total payment for the period was £14.03 to Conservative MP for Stourbridge, Margot James, although 66 MPs received no payments at all.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was the Cabinet's biggest recipient of expenses over the period, the figures suggest, being paid £3,351, with Chancellor George Osborne being paid the least - £61.

Foreign Secretary William Hague, Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Business Secretary Vince Cable were not paid any expenses at all over the period.

The cabinet expenses bill for the period totalled £24,352.

The claims from MPs from November and December were down on the £3.6m paid out in the preceding two months.

But they are likely to be revised up substantially in the next few months because of late claims - so the list of highest claimants could change.

Rail ticket

There was a significant fall in claims refused by Ipsa because they were invalid or lacked documentation - from £15,352 in the previous two-month period.

This may reflect a change in the way Ipsa records refused claims following an outcry from MPs in February, who insisted that their claims had been listed as not paid when they had been re-submitted later and met in full.

The data released so far dates back to May, when Ipsa took over the administration of MPs' expenses.

Among the other MPs who had claims refused by Ipsa were Children's Minister Tim Loughton, who provided "insufficient evidence" for an £89.23 claim for staples and ink cartridges

Shadow Treasury chief secretary Angela Eagle submitted a receipt which failed to match a claim for a £10 rail ticket for a member of staff.

The SNP's Angus MacNeil, who as MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, formerly the Western Isles, has one of the longest commutes at Westminster, had two claims for £387.75 for interim hotel accommodation in London rejected as duplicates.

Voters can search for their MPs' expenses on Ipsa's website, which details 72,000 claims totalling £9.98m.

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