DUP members top expenses table at House of Commons

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Jim Shannon of the DUP has topped the Westminster expenses list for the second year in succession – ahead of party colleague Ian Paisley who had the second highest claim of the 650 MPs.

Mr Shannon, the MP for Strangford since 2010, claimed a total of £205,798 with a further £58,980 in travel expenses.

Staffing costs accounted for 161,327 while £32,135 was paid to cover office facilities.

Mr Shannon’s travelling expenses were more than twice that of any other Northern Ireland MP, with the exception of Ian Paisley who claimed £32,934 towards travel.

However, he has defended the hefty cost, saying his heavy workload requires a large team of staff across two full-time offices, one part-time, and several “satellite” surgeries most Saturdays.

“I employ eight staff – five full-time and three part-time – and I have one of the busiest offices in the whole of Northern Ireland if not in the whole of the UK,” Mr Shannon said.

“We do between 7,000 and 8,000 hard copies of letters, and three times that number of emails per year. If you want to deliver for your constituents, which I do, then you have to pay your staff and you have to provide the stationary.”

Mr Shannon said staff sickness and providing maternity cover during the last financial year had an impact on his overall costs, and said his record spoke for itself.

“I am one of the best attenders at Westminster. I can’t answer for anybody else, but I need that number of staff. My workload is enormous. I love my constituency work and I thrive on it but I can’t do it all myself.”

Mr Paisley’s total expenses claim of £195,247 included £137,769 in staff costs and office expenses of £24,930.

The expenses claimed during the year 2014-15 are published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

Among the other Northern Ireland MPs in office at the time, Margaret Ritchie claimed a total of £194,139 including staff and travel; Naomi Long £191,619; Francie Molloy £154,667 and Lady Sylvia Hermon £142,507.

Although Sinn Fein MPs don’t take their seats at Westminster, they claim constituency costs in the same manner as the non-abstentionists.