Patrick McLoughlin latest MP in expenses row

WEST Derbyshire MP Patrick McLoughlin, who represents the Belper electorate, will hold two public meetings of Friday to defend himself after he was the latest MP to be named in the expenses row.

The Conservative Chief Whip has been named in The Daily Telegraph as reportedly claiming 3,000 for the fitting of new windows at his second home in the county.

McLoughlin said he was shocked by the recent media reports of MPs claiming for undue expenses and has invited constituents to ask him question at two meetings at Darley Dale and Ashbourne on Friday night.

He said: "Like many people, I was shocked by the recent disclosures about some of the expenses claimed by some MPs. I believe being the MP for West Derbyshire is a great honour, and I don't like to see Parliament being brought into disrepute in this way."

" I claimed for 25 per cent of the windows and believed that was in line with the rules."

The first meeting will take place at St Oswold's Church Hall in Ashbourne at 6.30pm and the second will be held at Darley Dale Whitworth Centre in the Terrace Room between 8pm and 9pm.

David Cameron said last week that he would set up a committee, on which West Derbyshire MP Patrick McLoughlin would sit, to review any claims of Tory MPs that seemed excessive.

If the committee deems any claims to be undue, regardless of whether they met Parliamentary rules, the MP will be ordered to repay under a threat of sacking.

Full statement from Patrick McLoughlin:

Like many of my constituents, I have been shocked by the recent revelations about the expenses claimed by some MPs. I regard being the MP for West Derbyshire as a great honour, and I don't like to see Parliament being brought into disrepute in this way. I want to take this opportunity to explain my situation.

Most of the present stories centre on an allowance available to MPs to enable us to live in two places. Being an MP is one of a very small number of jobs that require someone to live and work in two places. Clearly, I can not commute between London and West Derbyshire. Instead, I usually leave Derbyshire on Sunday afternoon; I prefer to use the train, but the service on Sundays is so unreliable, that sometimes I drive.

I start work at about 8 am on Monday, as on the other days I am in London. I have a full day until the House of Commons finishes on Monday and Tuesday, generally after we have voted at 10 pm. I return to my flat in Lambeth at about 11 pm. On 12 May 2009, the Commons rose at 1.30 am. On Wednesdays, the Commons rises at about 7.30 pm; I may have engagements after that, but if I'm lucky, I will be back at the flat by 8 pm.

On Thursdays, The Commons ends at about 6.00 pm, and I try to get back to Derbyshire after that, although I do have to spend some Fridays in Parliament. Otherwise, I spend Fridays, and many Saturdays, on constituency visits and meetings; West Derbyshire is about 340 square miles, with about a hundred towns and villages, stretching roughly from Derby to Sheffield and from the Derwent to the Dove, so I sometimes cover a lot of miles doing that. I like to spend Sunday morning with my family before returning to London.

So you can see that I need to live in two places to do what I was elected to do – represent the local people. In my time as an MP, I have had, separately, two properties in the constituency, and two in London. It is worth noting that each time, I paid more for a London flat than a house in Derbyshire.

My wife and I lived in Matlock for the first three years. We then moved to the south of the constituency. We have been at that house ever since, so of course, in that period, updating and maintenance work have been required, such as the kitchen and bathroom, both of which we paid for. We have also added two extensions, and paid for both. One of these has been used as an office, but I did not claim any of the capital costs, as that would not have been a proper use of the allowances. I work there at weekends and recesses, and my wife works for me there at weekends and when she is in Derbyshire. She has been my Constituency Administrator for many years. Until eighteen months ago, another member of staff worked there too. When she left, I appointed another assistant in Westminster, to join Mrs Wright who has worked for me since my election.

I purchased my first property in London, a year after I was elected, shared with another MP. A legal agreement was drawn up by a Derbyshire solicitor. About seven years ago, I moved to another flat nearby.

When I first became a Minister in 1989, the Commons authorities informed me that from then on, I had to nominate London as my main home. Ministers are paid an amount in addition to their MP's salary. However, at that time, the MP's salary was reduced by one third when an MP becomes a Minister. Instead I received a taxable allowance of 1200 a year.

I have served on the Conservative front bench ever since, apart from one year, and I have not altered my home nomination since then.

However, I do not expect there to be an easy or quick 'fix' and I do not want to return to a system where only people of independent wealth can become MPs. The reimbursement system has grown into a very complex one, partly because every MP has a different way of running his or her administrative and constituency support, and corresponding travel and living arrangements. For example, some have their families living in the constituency, others in London; some live alone. Of course, like everyone else, the personal circumstances of an MP may also change during his or her service. So I think complete standardisation would be very difficult, given the hugely different nature of constituencies and their distance from London, plus any number of other important variables.

I feel very privileged to be a Member of Parliament, particularly for this beautiful area. Like every occupation, it has its frustrating moments, but mostly it is very fulfilling. I am always pleased when I manage to help my constituents, and I will continue to work hard to do the best possible job for them, both in Derbyshire and in Westminster.