Robinson defends expenses claims

FIRST Minister Peter Robinson has defended a £30,000 expenses claim for food as legitimate.

As an interrogation of the expenses claims of Westminster MPs continues, it has been revealed that Mr Robinson and his wife, Iris, also an MP for Strangford, claimed the amount for food over the course of four years.

However, the DUP leader said in a statement that he was satisfied that all of the money was legitimately claimed.

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Mr Robinson, who is MP for East Belfast, confirmed he and his wife

had billed taxpayers for an average of 73 per week for food.

"In relation to the claim for food, which is specifically sought and itemised by the Fees Office on the claim form, the Daily Telegraph have bunched the claims of my wife and I together and given a total over four years in order to arrive at a large figure," he said.

"In reality this equates to an average of about 73 per week. The Fees Office determined that 400 each month to cover food in London is not unreasonable given the cost of buying meals in London."

Mr Robinson also said that he had inadvertently submitted a duplicate receipt, something which he said was spotted by officials.

"The Daily Telegraph rightly identified that the two claim forms were prepared for the signature of my wife and myself by the same person," he said of the claim.

"They were signed separately and then sent together, as always, in the one envelope.

"Anyone in the Fees Office would have been dealing with the claims together and inevitably would have noticed the innocent mistake."

TUV leader Jim Allister claimed public trust in politicians over the expenses furore "been rocked to its core".

"In Northern Ireland the added dimensions of double-jobbing and family-dynasty building, has added to the public contempt," he said.

"Paying the weekly grocery bill is a huge struggle for many, so when extravagance, at the public expense, is flaunted, it offends right-thinking people."