The full list of MPs’ expenses claims is due to published on 1st July but the Daily Telegraph have jumped the gun and detailed ministerial expenses. The Guardian’s Michael White is suitably sceptical of the scoop whilst acknowleging “If there is nothing MPs can do to stop it, much of the blame lies at their own feet.” Of local interest may be the expenses claims of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, MP, who doesn’t take a ministerial salary on top of his MP’s salary. The Daily Telegraph quotes an anonymous spokesman for the Secretary of State – “Mr Woodwards allowance claims are published every year and they are within the rules and guidelines.” [Adds BBC report picks up on the mortgage payments]. And, with an eye on an even more local expenses story, Sir Alastair Graham, former chair of the UK-wide Committee on Standards in Public Life, tells the Belfast Telegraph
“I never think that saying you are within the rules is a satisfactory defence.”
Some details of Shaun Woodward’s expenses claims
Mr Woodwards claims for incidental expenses covering the cost of running his parliamentary and constituency office show some rather more modest items.
One assistant claimed 38p for a Muller Crunch Corner yogurt and £1.06 for a pizza from Asda in St Helens in November, 2004, which Mr Woodward recovered under the category of staff subsistence.
Receipts from an office supplier show that Mr Woodward has regular orders for Family Circle biscuits at £7.18 per tin; Gold Blend coffee at £11.22 per tin; Tetley tea bags at £3.85 for a box of 440; and Diet Coke, costing £12.56 for each case of 24 cans. The expense claims also disclose Mr Woodwards reading habits he takes The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, The Mirror and The Sun every day, and also bills the taxpayer for his deliveries of Private Eye magazine, which costs £1.50 per fortnight.
The parliamentary Green Book states that office expenses must be incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily on parliamentary duties. It makes no mention of the provision of drinks and snacks or for buying magazines.