EXPENSES ROW: UNRECEIPTED £18,800 FOOD CLAIM IS UNACCEPTABLE

May 18, 2009 4:17 PM

Newcastle East Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman Greg Stone has called on Nick Brown to provide additional information to justify his expense claims.

Revelations in the Daily Telegraph show that Mr Brown claimed just short of the £23068 maximum by "topping up" his mortgage interest payment on his Newcastle home of £6,600 by submitting undocumented claims including £400 a month for food - including during parliamentary recess, £2880 for "repairs and insurance", £2880 for services, £1640 for phones and £1810 for utilities.

Despite claiming to be in favour of reform of the expenses system, Newcastle East MP Mr Brown is on record as having voted against plans to introduce greater audit of expenses and to stop claiming without receipts in July 2008.

Responding, Greg Stone said: "For the sake of transparency Nick Brown has an obligation to account for the money he has claimed.

"There are a great many people in Newcastle East who have to live on far less than the £16,000 a year he has claimed for food, cleaning, and laundry bills.

"It is clearly unacceptable for the system to allow regular large-scale expense claims for living costs without any documentary evidence.

"I simply don't think it is good enough for him to say that he deserves it because he works hard between Monday and Friday - he needs to formally account for his claims, or else he will be called to account by his electors."

The row looks set to make the contest for the Newcastle East seat even more interesting at the next election, as boundary changes look set to make the seat a close fight between Labour and the Lib Dems.

A swing of 8.8% would be enough for the Lib Dems to gain the seat.

Greg Stone said: "I think many people in Newcastle East will be gravely concerned by these allegations.

"Whether or not the claims were allowable under a rotten system, voters want to have confidence that their MP is not abusing the system.

"I am happy for my council expenses to be fully scrutinised as I have never claimed for subsistence, or indeed anything other than very occasional rail tickets when attending meetings in other parts of the country.

"If elected to Westminster I pledge to fully disclose and itemise all my expenses and will not make any claims relating to my Newcastle home."