Lady Hermon, Member of Parliament for North Down, has today issued the following statement about her own claims under the House of Commons Additional Costs Allowance. These allowances are paid to reimburse MPs for necessary costs incurred when staying overnight away from their main home for the purpose of performing parliamentary duties.
Speaking from her Bangor Constituency Office, Lady Hermon said: “After days of the drip, drip feed of details of the most outrageous expenses claims by MPs, I feel very strongly that the constituents of North Down are entitled to know now what their MP has claimed by way of additional allowances.
I’ve never bought property nor had a mortgage in London; I didn’t have a television at any stage, didn’t watch DVDs of any nature, didn’t claim for food in London, furnishings, security or cleaning, didn’t claim for dog food, chandeliers or for any other weird and exotic items.
After being elected in 2001, I rented a small one-bedroomed flat, about 20 minutes walk from the House of Commons. Three years later I rented a different flat, again small and one-bedroomed, but a bit closer to Westminster. However, when Sir Jack was admitted to Downshire Hospital early last year, I ended the tenancy of the flat. Since February 2008, I’ve had no second home, choosing instead to spend as much time with Jack as possible and staying overnight only occasionally in a London hotel, whenever we had a crucial late night vote.
Therefore, my only claims were rent, council tax, telephone and electricity for the flats. Straightforward, I thought, until Monday last, when I phoned the Fees Office only to discover it had overpaid me for two months rent between 2005-6. Even though I immediately reimbursed the House of Commons with the £2730, I remain profoundly upset and embarrassed. I’m also very angry that the Fees Office did not draw my attention to my mistakes at the time, especially as I had on various occasions specifically written on claim forms that I wanted them to be checked.
That autumn of 2005, I had gone back alone to Westminster after the General Election and had also to cope with Jack’s deteriorating health at home. The pressure on me was enormous at that time, pre-devolution, when every piece of Northern Ireland legislation had to go through the House of Commons and I the only Ulster Unionist voice. There can, however, be no excuses. The mistakes were mine, which I have rectified and for which I am extremely sorry.
I am well aware of the public mood and share the very real sense of outrage over revelations in recent days about MPs’ claims for expenses. If constituents would like to ask any additional questions about mine, I’m more than happy to answer them and would invite them to contact me at my Constituency Office on the Hamilton Road in Bangor.”
May 13th, 2009