Garstang MP defends 'fourth highest' expense claims

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WYRE MP Ben Wallace has defended his expenses claims after it was revealed he is among the highest claiming MPs in the country.

Mr Wallace claimed 175,523 on top of his 63,000 salary - the fourth highest claim in Parliament.

The expenses cover such things as cash spent on travel, staff, office equipment and second homes.

Mr Wallace, who is a fervent supporter of MPs expense claims being made public and was the first MP to publish his expenses at his own volition, claimed 23,083 in costs for living away from home and 20,607 office running costs.

The "league table" of MPs' claims were revealed this week, only days before it was announced MPs are to receive a pay rise of 2.33 per cent from today.

Following reports in the local and national media about his place in the league table, Mr Wallace issued a strong defence of his claims, pointing out they had been available for public inspection on his website since last June.

In a statement issued by his Great Eccleston constituency office yesterday Mr Wallace said: "The expenses released for the year 07/08 reflect the fact that my constituency has approximately a 20% larger electorate than the average one in England.

"These figures are not new, I published these on my website from last June and I have been the leading exponent on allowances reform and transparency.

"My constituents are able to see every claim I have ever made and they will see how taxpayers money was spent on running my office and doing my job in order to represent Lancaster and Wyre.

"I realise that all MPs' finances are under scrutiny at the moment and quite rightly so, but I pride myself on being a hard working MP and I only claim what is necessary to represent my constituency to the best of my ability and I will continue to do so.

"To date, I am still the only MP to have published all my expenses broken down by each and every single item claimed.

"I am deeply aware of the tough times many people are facing in today's climate and for this reason I will not be taking my annual pay rise."

Mr Wallace was recently given a 'Parliamentary campaigner of the year' award award by The Spectator magazine for his openness and being the first MP to voluntarily reveal his expenses.

Earlier this year he was praised for his involvement in helping shape the Conservative stance at Westminister which resulted in a government U-turn and ministers dumping their proposals to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act.

A detailed breakdown of Mr Wallace's expenses appears on his website

Fylde MP Michael Jack, whose constituency includes St Michaels and district, claimed 122,476.