UK Politics

MPs expenses: Repayments totalled £1.46m

MPs in the Commons
Image caption MPs rushed to make repayments in the face of public anger about the expenses scandal

MPs repaid expenses totalling £1.46m in 12 months before the 2010 election - but some got cash back, it has emerged.

The figure includes repayments volunteered by MPs in the face of public anger and those recommended by an expenses audit.

It follows a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.

The figures show that some MPs got money back when the audit suggested they repay less than they had already paid out.

In addition to 23 MPs already named as having received money back by the News of the World last year - the Commons said Labour MPs Liam Byrne, Rob Marris and Jim Sheridan also received refunds.

It is the first time the full figure for repayments has been published.

Expenses audit

In the weeks following the expenses scandal, MPs began making repayments - some at the urging of their party leaders, some after investigation by the Commons standards and privileges committee and others voluntarily because of their constituents' reaction.

But in June, a separate audit of all MPs' claims made under the second homes allowance from April 2004 to March 2009 was ordered, after over payments and other mistakes were uncovered by the Telegraph investigation.

The audit, headed by Sir Thomas Legg, eventually recommended MPs should repay £1.12m.

But the FOI request shows that the total amount repaid between April 2009 and the general election was £1.46m.

It also emerged that former Chief Secretary to the Treasury - now shadow work and pensions secretary - Liam Byrne, who originally repaid £3,618 across various expenses, got £1,349.41 back. The Legg Inquiry recommended he repay just £111.84.

Labour MP Jim Sheridan was refunded £379.41 while former Labour MP Rob Marris got £3,283.39 returned - after initially repaying £4,400 for furniture costs.

Dog food

Others did not pay back the full amount requested by Sir Thomas Legg because they had already voluntarily paid back significant sums - even though they were for separate expenses.

Mr Marris said he had "abided by what he [Sir Thomas Legg] asked for" while Mr Sheridan said he would not be commenting. Mr Byrne has not yet responded.

Among those MPs previously named as having received refunds on their repayments are former Conservative MP Sir John Butterfill - he got £15,000 back having agreed to repay £20,000 following criticism that he made claims towards staff quarters at his home. Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan also got £4.47 back, the same amount she was criticised for having claimed towards dog food for her pet.

The Legg report proved controversial because some MPs complained that he had applied his own retrospective limits to what should have been claimed for gardening and maintenance - and told them to repay the rest.

But the audit was also limited in scope to the validity of second home payments "under the rules and standards in force at the time" - among other things it meant MPs were not penalised for "flipping" homes - repeatedly switching expenses claims between properties - one of the practices criticised when expenses claims were leaked.

Sir Thomas also acknowledged in his report that rules were "vague" and interpreting them had not been "straightforward".

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