MP defends actions over expenses

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer last night defended his actions after becoming the latest politician to become embroiled in the Parliamentary expenses row.

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer last night defended his actions after becoming the latest politician to become embroiled in the Parliamentary expenses row.

It has been alleged the former Environment Secretary claimed more than �9,000 a year for gardening at his country home in a village near Debenham.

He is said to have declared expenses totalling hundreds of pounds to pay for the control of wildlife, including a bill for �100 to rid his lawn of moles.

A leaked document shows the 69-year-old Tory MP produced receipts to the House of Commons fees office over a four-year period for the removal of jackdaw nests, insects and rodents from the property.

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The fees office correspondence included Mr Gummer's admission that he had drawn up some of the statements himself, saying: 'I have also had to go back to create receipts from the people who work for us in Suffolk as we have not previously had any such system.'

Mr Gummer also submitted a receipt in excess of �9,090 for outside maintenance, wood chopping and gardening between April 2004 and March 2005.

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Another note written in 2005 explained why he had claimed more than �5,000 for the roof of his house to be repaired but had initially failed to produce a receipt for the work, saying: 'The bill for roof repairs has been lost and I have requested a copy for you which I will send as soon as possible.'

Mr Gummer defended the costs he claimed for maintenance on his second home, saying: 'I have only ever claimed the relevant proportion of the costs of necessary maintenance and repairs of an old rural property and the claims for 'gardening' relate in significant part to maintenance and repairs too.

'It was quite clear that the claims I submitted were for a range of things but they have to be put under a particular package. The claim was for gardening outside maintenance and wood chopping, not just gardening.

'I have always claimed for things that have needed to be done there and have never claimed for anything that enhanced the house, only for things that are essential for the running of the house.

'The claim for roof repairs was a small portion of the total costs of the repairs to the roof of the property, necessary to its maintenance, the rest being paid by me.'

Despite claiming a total of �87,112 in second home allowance from 2004 to 2008, Mr Gummer said he had one of the lowest overall expenses claims in the House of Commons.

The MP, who has had a second home in Suffolk for 23 of the 30 years he has represented a constituency in the county, said: 'The purpose of providing money for a second home is to enable a Member of Parliament to fulfil his constituency duties efficiently and properly and it is in that spirit that I have made my claims. I have claimed only for what was right and proportionate.

'I have always been in favour of openness and have always paid the entire costs of the house as far as mortgage is concerned.

'It is very galling for someone that is so scrupulous and always has been.'

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