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MP faces cleaning bill overspend repayment

PUBLISHED: 18:17 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 09:06 12 August 2010

AN MP could have to pay back hundreds of pounds for claiming expenses for cleaning work on her second home, under new rules that have also collared the Prime

AN MP could have to pay back hundreds of pounds for claiming expenses for cleaning work on her second home, under new rules that have also collared the Prime Minister.

Jacqui Lait, MP for Beckenham, pictured, could have to cough up £355 after submitting £200 a month in cleaning bill receipts on her second home from April 2007 to February 2008, then £155 in March 2008, totalling £2,355.

It exceeds a threshold set by Sir Thomas Legg, appointed by the government to examine MP's second home allowances between 2004 and 2008.

On Monday MPs claiming the additional cost allowances (ACAs) were sent letters, including Gordon Brown who was asked to repay £10,000 from a £12,000 cleaning bill..

MPs from all parties criticised the audit questioning its accuracy and the validity of applying new rules at this stage.

Two upper claims limits he has set retrospectively applying to second homes are £2,000 per annum for cleaning and £1,000 for gardening.

Sir Thomas has drawn up a set of "fundamental principles of propriety" that take a tougher line than the Commons fees office, which approved thousands of claims now under closer scrutiny.

The principles required MPs to personally ensure that their use of the ACA was necessary for the performance of their parliamentary duties, not extravagant or luxurious and in accordance with the Nolan principles of selflessness, accountability, honesty and leadership.

They also need to take account of value for money. In June Mrs Lait defended claims of £160 for a pan, £96.99 on a rubbish bin, £90 on "replacement mugs" and £3,950 on re-carpeting.

But she declined to comment on the latest audit when approached by the Times.

Bromley resident, Brian Sweeney, of Caygill Close said: "I know MPs need to claim expenses but all we ask is that they don't take the Mickey.

"Was the bin gold plated, how many mugs did she need to get, 100? If a typical taxpayer went out to buy those items, there would be a huge difference in cost between what we would pay and the claims submitted by Mrs Lait."

Legg's remit also covers mortgage interest payments.

Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill put in a claim of £14,224 for stamp duty and solicitors' fees on a flat bought in his constituency after being elected. He since claimed £1,425 a month mortgage interest payments and £112 monthly council tax.

It compares to Orpington MP, John Horam, who claimed just £190 monthly for mortgage interest on his Orpington second home in 2004-05, and £223 in 2006-07.

Mrs Lait has already paid back £7,000 for over-claiming on her mortgage interest.

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