With details of everything our MPs claim expenses for about to become public knowledge, Epsom and Ewell MP CHRIS GRAYLING writes exclusively for the Epsom Guardian to explain exactly what he spends the public cash on.

Although there has been a huge amount of controversy about the allowances, it is worth saying that the biggest elements by far of MPs allowances are to pay the salaries of three or four staff and for the running of offices in the constituency and at Westminster.

There are two main allowances being published in this exercise.

The first – the Incidental Expenses Provision – covers the cost of running offices at Westminster and in the constituency.

My constituency office is spread across two locations. I rent a dedicated office for my constituency secretary at the Epsom and Ewell Conservative Association, together with use of meeting rooms, under an officially approved agreement.

I also have a 300sq ft office in an annex above the garage at my home where I do most of my constituency-based and out-of-hours office work. As permitted I have claimed for the running costs of this office – though not for any element of mortgage costs as this is not permitted.

The allowance also covers telephones, ISDN lines, office equipment, stationery, and so forth. It also includes a variety of travel costs. I spend a lot of time travelling round the country visiting people and organisations related to my shadow ministerial duties. This is the reason I have relatively high travel costs as an MP.

We have also been allowed to draw down money for incidental cash costs like newspapers, car parking costs, smaller subsistence costs while travelling on shadow ministerial business, the cost of booking surgery and other venues in the constituency, small-scale out-of-pocket expenses for staff members and so forth.

The additional costs allowance – the so-called second home allowance – has been at the centre of the recent controversies.

The receipts published show the cost of the flat in Westminster which I have had as an MP. I have already written in the Epsom Guardian about the reasons for doing so.

However, as a result of recent changes to the rules and the row over Parliamentary expenses, I took a voluntary decision to give up claiming the allowance immediately, to sell the flat and to repay profit made from its sale to the taxpayer.

In addition, since my use of the allowance has now come to an end, I have also bought back from the Fees Office the furnishings bought in recent years. Since these will now no longer be used for purposes related to my job, I do not think it is right to leave the taxpayer paying for them.

There is also one year’s worth of receipts in the bundle being released for the communication allowance, which was introduced in 2007. The main cost this now covers is for my regular newsletter attached to the Epsom Guardian and the maintenance of my parliamentary website.

Since the House of Commons authorities made available past receipts to MPs in April, I have been through all the documentation carefully to identify any mistakes I might have made and rectify them.

I have discovered a small number – as well as a couple of occasions when I think the Fees Office gave me the wrong advice – and so I have repaid the money involved.

Over the summer, every expense claim by every MP will be audited and naturally if the auditors believe that any of my other claims are not correct I will refund the money.

Every MP – myself included – recognises the anger there has been about aspects of the allowances system. We are all sorry about what has happened.

As a result there have already been major changes to the system.

However this is only the start. We have to make sure that everything is completely open and transparent in the future.

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