MPs claim �370k in expenses

THE region’s three MPs have claimed more than �370,000 of taxpayer’s money in expenses this year – with one taking back more money than the Prime Minister.

John Penrose, Liam Fox and Tessa Munt scooped a total of �374,933.53 between them, with only Mr Penrose filing a smaller claim than last year.

Ms Munt, who is MP for areas including Cheddar and Burnham, filed claims worth �164,862.07 in the 2011-12 financial year - �45,000 more than PM David Cameron.

The majority of the money claimed by Ms Munt was spent on running her constituency office but more than �30,000 went on living costs including rent and a claim for a TV licence for her London flat.

North Somerset MP Dr Fox claimed more than �110,000 in expenses for the second year running on top of his salary. His claims included two petrol expenses worth 67p and 89p for visits within his constituency.

Dr Fox, who is MP for Cleeve and other towns and villages in the north of the district, claimed more money this year than he did in 2010-11, despite his resignation from frontline politics last October.

He quit his role as defence Secretary amid criticisms over compromising security by allowing friend Adam Werrity to join him on political business without being vetted.

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Weston MP John Penrose claimed the least of the three politicians despite being the only one with a ministerial role.

The former tourism and heritage minister – who lost the position last week – filed �95,491.38 in expenses, which is �10,000 less than last year.

MPs are entitled to an allowance to cover various expenses including travel and accommodation costs incurred by their regular commutes to Westminster for parliamentary business.

But the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was created in 2009 following widespread abuse of the expenses system – which is ultimately funded by the taxpayer.

None of the trio are under investigation for any expenses claims made this year.

Mr Penrose said: “Most people were completely horrified by the expenses scandal, but at least it meant the system got a much-needed and thorough spring clean.

“The new system is much more transparent, and independent from MPs themselves too. ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant’, as the saying goes.”

Ms Munt was asked for comment but failed to respond before the Mercury went to press.