Ian Paisley has defended his £100,000 House of Commons expenses after topping the list of MPs’ claims for last year.
The DUP North Antrim representative said the money was necessary to cover travel costs, and stressed that none of the money involved goes to either him or any family members.
Apart from Ian Paisley’s £100,204, the largest claims were made by Alistair Carmichael (Lib Dem, Orkney and Shetland, £82,878) and David Morris (Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale, £75,902).
The overall figure is made up of constituency office costs, accommodation, travel/subsistence and staff costs.
Among the 18 Northern Ireland MPs, David Simpson (DUP, Upper Bann, £63,092) and Jim Shannon (DUP, Strangford, £62,548) were next on the claimants’ list for the last financial year. The leading non-DUP MP was Margaret Ritchie (SDLP, South Down, £57,012).
Mr Paisley said: “The business expenses are unavoidable costs that an MP incurs whilst running a busy constituency office and commuting to Parliament. I employ four full-time and two part-time staff both in the constituency and Parliament whose travel costs are included in mine.”
Mr Paisley also highlighted his full-time role at the Commons – including his above average number of both speaking slots and parliamentary questions – and said his expenses were legitimate and “paid directly by the Parliament”.
He added: “I host a significant number of constituent visits to Parliament even during recess. As a result, my constituency has benefited in terms of coverage, jobs and investment.”
The total bill for MPs’ expenses rose by more than seven per cent last year to £98 million, according to new figures. Spending is now higher than in the run-up to the scandal that rocked Westminster in 2009.
Most of the increase was down to larger staffing budgets – but the cost of MPs’ personal expenses also rose from £23.5 million in 2011-12 to £23.8 million last year.
The watchdog has proposed raising MPs’ pay from the current £66,000 to £74,000 after the 2015 general election – despite protests from David Cameron that the cost of politics must not be allowed to rise.
Matthew Sinclair of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Of course MPs should get reasonable office and staff support to assist them in their important work representing constituents at Westminster, but these costs must be kept under control.”