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Norfolk MPs' expenses paybacks revealed

PUBLISHED: 10:26 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 July 2010

Norfolk MP Keith Simpson is to refund more than £300 after his expenses were examined by parlia-mentary auditor Sir Thomas Legg.

The Tory shadow foreign minister and member for Mid Norfolk yesterday regretted having made two “administrative errors” on phone bills that were spotted by Sir Thomas in his controversial examination of the expenses claimed by all MPs over a five-year period.

Norfolk MP Keith Simpson is to refund more than £300 after his expenses were examined by parlia-mentary auditor Sir Thomas Legg.

The Tory shadow foreign minister and member for Mid Norfolk yesterday regretted having made two “administrative errors” on phone bills that were spotted by Sir Thomas in his controversial examination of the expenses claimed by all MPs over a five-year period.

In 2004, Mr Simpson claimed on his second-home allowance for a phone bill that actually related to his first home in his constituency. And in 2006 a phone bill was submitted for payment in two consecutive months.

The two incidents resulted in an over-claim of £330.61.

Mr Simpson said he was surprised that the mistakes had not been picked up by the Commons fees office but added: “If you make such errors, you have to take it on the chin and accept responsibility.”

He hoped, the MP added, that many people in Norfolk would conclude that “this could have happened to me”.

Clarification of some hotel bills between June last year and this February, and of an earlier rent increase, has also been sought from Great Yarmouth Labour MP Tony Wright - but Sir Thomas has not asked him to make any repayment.

Mr Wright, who stays in budget hotels when he is at Westminster, said the auditor had questioned the use of confirmation slips submitted when he had booked in advance online using Lastminute.com.

“They need confirmation of the bill, so I have got to go to the fees office and ask them to give me copies,” he said. “It's just a nuisance factor having to find all those receipts, but it's not something I'm worried about.

“If the worst comes to the worst, I will just show them my bank statements.” Mr Wright emphasised: “I have got a nil repayment.”

South Norfolk Conservative MP Richard Bacon has been told by Sir Thomas that he has not been able to identify any overpayment of expenses to him and that no action is required.

Christopher Fraser, the Tory member for South-West Norfolk, has not been asked to repay anything in regard to the second home that he owns, and on which he has a mortgage, in the constituency. He has been asked to resend some documentation, including details of mortgage and rental agreements, “which it would appear was not forwarded by the fees office to Sir Thomas Legg”.

As reported in yesterday's EDP, Charles Clarke (Norwich South, Labour) and Norman Lamb (North Norfolk, Liberal Democrats) have been asked to submit further documentary evidence of mortgage payments, but neither has received a request to repay money.

North-West Norfolk Tory member Henry Bellingham has yet to respond to EDP requests for information about his letter from Sir Thomas; so has Bob Blizzard, the Waveney Labour MP, and the deputy minister for the eastern region.

It is unclear whether Ian Gibson, the former MP for Norwich North has had a letter from Sir Thomas, who has been looking at expenses claims since 2004; he has not responded to a telephone call by the EDP. Chloe Smith, the new MP for the constituency, is excluded from the Legg inquiry.

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