Wednesday, 20 May, 2009

I understand the very grave public concern about the MPs' expenses system. The situation is very serious and the public are angry- they are right to be. The current system is destroying public confidence in politicians. I believe it must be scrapped as soon as possible.

To me, nothing matters more than the good opinion of my constituents, whom I try hard to serve to the best of my ability.

The press have reported on many MPs' allowance claims - and I am one of them. People must make their own minds up about my actions on the basis of the facts. The facts in my case are:-

    • 'Flipping' is the arbitrary re-designation of a property as a second home so as to make a profit when selling it on. I can assure you that I have never 'flipped' my second home in order to sell any property to make a gain and I have never avoided paying capital gains tax. That is for the simple reason that since becoming an MP, I have never sold any property anywhere, inside or outside the United Kingdom for profit, loss or otherwise.
    • In 2007 I transferred my main home to London because as a Shadow Minister I was spending more time there. I had to change my designation because if I had not I would have been deceiving people. This resulted in me actually claiming lower allowances not higher ones. In each of the last three years, I have been the lowest spending Conservative MP in Suffolk for second homes allowance. In 2006-7, I was 461st out of all 645 MPs for claiming the second home allowance. In 2007-8, I was 511th out of all 645 MPs for claiming that allowance.
    • On transferring, I took a let on a rented property in Bury St Edmunds. I needed a bed to sleep in, a sofa to sit on and a TV, which were then allowable items. I was told to submit receipts by the fees office and that they would then rule on what was a reasonable reimbursement. Given that they were clearly very expensive, I paid out of my own pocket- not the taxpayer's- two-thirds of the cost of the TV and seventy percent of the cost of the bed.
    • I believe that the public have a right to know the details of MPs' expenses. It is therefore completely untrue to say that I voted on David McLean's Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill to stop the disclosure of expenses. I made it clear at the time that I voted for that Bill solely to protect the privacy of my constituents' personal circumstances contained in their letters to me as their MP.

      The Commons Authorities will very soon finalise the receipts and claims for all MPs for the past four years. I pledge to publish those receipts and claims on my website so that local people in my Bury St Edmunds constituency can see everything for themselves. I welcome the fact that every single MP will have their past expense claims and receipts looked at by a wholly independent scrutiny panel.

      Regardless of what new Parliamentary rules are put in place, I will publish all of my expenses in future on my website so that you can see right down to the last penny what I am costing you.

      I really do understand why people have lost faith in politics and I take my share of responsibility for that. I would very much welcome your views on what you want to see done to start cleaning up the system.

      With kind regards,