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Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman's expenses

BARRY Sheerman has opened his expenses to the Examiner – and showed how the claims for food are spent.

BARRY Sheerman has opened his expenses to the Examiner – and showed how the claims for food are spent.

Mr Sheerman claimed an average of £200 a month in food on the taxpayer over a four-year period – but stressed it was all in the course of his work.

The Huddersfield MP opened his expenses to us and they revealed he spent a total of £9,695 on food between 2004 and 2008.

The figures were revealed as he followed Colne Valley MP Kali Mountford in opening his books to the Examiner.

Receipts for the claims were unavailable because, under parliamentary rules, MPs do not have to submit receipts for food claims under £250 a month.

But Mr Sheerman said none of the money was spent on supermarket shopping for himself – it was all related to his work as an MP.

Other MPs have been exposed for claiming for items including chocolate Hob Nobs and Maltesers.

MPs are allowed to claim anything up to £400 a month for food. John Prescott claimed the full amount every month for the four years in question.

Mr Sheerman said his food claims were largely for teas and coffees during his working day and included the costs of buying food and drink for people visiting him in London.

He said: “As long as you don’t over-claim, the advice from the Fees Office is that you don’t need to submit receipts.

“We buy about £50 in coffees every week for myself and guests.

“If I’ve got Patrick Stewart or Vice Chancellor Bob Cryan from the university, it’s courtesy to buy them a drink.

“People forget that a lot of what I do is promoting Huddersfield by engaging with people down here.”

But the MP said he always spent more than the amount he claimed for.

For 10 months in 2004-05 Mr Sheerman claimed £1,697.42 a month in additional costs allowances – the claims that can be submitted for costs incurred living away from an MP’s main home.

That consisted of £1,105.42 in mortgage relief – used to pay off interest on the mortgage of his second home in Blackheath, London – £200 in food, £100 in utility bills, £162 in council tax, £30 for a cleaner, £50 for servicing of appliances and £50 in insurance.

In the other two months that year, he claimed slightly more for food, phone bills and cleaning.

From April to July the following year, he claimed £1,697.42.

In August his mortgage payments claim increased to £1,368.70, increasing the overall amount he claimed to £1,960.70.

His average claim the following two years was £2,030.70.

Unlike Ms Mountford, who claimed for a vacuum cleaner, fridge freezer and a mattress, Mr Sheerman did not claim for any additional miscellaneous items.

He said: “I never thought it was appropriate to buy items for myself.”

Mr Sheerman said the system needed to change.

He said: “The way we deal with things at the moment has been bodged together and isn’t efficient. It’s a daft system.

“Everyone who looks at it from the outside realises that it’s Victorian.

“Only a small minority play the system, but it needs changing.”

He said he hoped the resignation of House of Commons speaker Michael Martin would prompt change.

“We absolutely need to make sure we never go back to the Byzantine system we have. We need something that’s independently set and fit for purpose,” he said.

 

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