MP meets expenses row with defianceBy Pete Castle
May 15, 2009
Gerald Howarth has insisted he has no reason to apologise after claiming furniture and household items on taxpayer-funded expenses for his Farnborough home.
The Conservative MP for Aldershot, Farnborough and Yateley said he had “acted within the rules” by making the claims.
Unlike fellow Tories Michael Gove, MP for Camberley and Ash, and North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot, who have both issued apologies, Mr Howarth has not committed himself to pay any of the money back.
Mr Howarth said he could be earning more money than his £64,766 MP’s salary if he were in his previous job as a city banker. He added people expected him to act as “squire of the manor” by paying for charity raffle gifts out of his own pocket and attending events. His defiant comments come as the furore over the publication of leaked details of MPs’ expenses continues.
While Mr Howarth’s expense claims have yet to be published, he told Get Hampshire the allowance was a necessary part of being an MP.
He said that he had not been extravagant in fitting out his Farnborough house at taxpayers’ expense.
While he said he had discussed how to pay for a new front wall with House of Commons officials, all home improvements, including an extension and new kitchen, had been paid out of his salary, the MP said.
Mr Howarth said he had bought furniture on expenses from a clearance sale at Bentalls, a furniture distribution centre for the department store, in Hawley Lane, Farnborough, including a “very nice sofa”.
“It didn’t cost me, or the taxpayer, very much money,” Mr Howarth said.
The house has two phone lines, one bill paid by the public and the other, for personal calls, paid by himself, he said.
While Mr Howarth said he backed Tory leader David Cameron’s ban on any future claims for furniture, maintenance or food in Tory MPs’ second homes, he thought it should be an “interim measure” until a permanent solution was found.
He added he needed two homes as he frequently did not leave the House of Commons until the early hours, after trains stopped running.
"Most MPs work hard and diligently and I despair at the damage that has been done to the mother of all parliaments," Mr Howarth said.