DEFRA secretary dubbed a ‘saint’ over expenses

It’s not a title many farmers would bestow upon him, but DEFRA Secretary Hilary Benn has been described as a saint for being one of the few MPs not to get embroiled in the expenses scandal.

Mr Benn made a list of 42 MPs identified as “saintly” by the Daily Telegraph for claiming less and saving taxpayers’ money.

According to the newspaper, Mr Benn claimed just £11,631 last year, on top of his £141,866 salary.

Dubbed as “Bargain Benn” by some national newspapers, the minister claimed just £147.78 a year on food, despite being able to claim £400 a month.

However he has been criticised for paying more than £30,000 in rent to his local constituency Labour Party for office space between 2005 and 2008.

He also refunded money after his claim for a party political report was found to have breached rules.

Saints and sinners of agriculture?

  • Former environment minister Michael Meacher also made the “saintly” list, claiming £8944 on his second home last year.
  • Shadow DEFRA secretary Nick Herbert (right) was forced to defend his claim for more than £10,000 for stamp duty and property surveys when he and his partner bought a home in his constituency in 2006.

    Mr Herbert said he had claimed for some of the costs of a second home in accordance with parliamentary rules.

  • Former DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett came under fire for her somewhat extravagant claims, which included £600 for hanging baskets and pot plants, £711 for painting her shed and more than £15,000 for work on her house.

    She said: “We live in an old cottage – not the beautiful, strong, stone-built type, but the kind of thing you throw together for the farmworkers from the bricks you had when you knocked down the pigsty – and it requires a good deal of maintenance and repair.”

  • Ex-agriculture minister Eliot Morley claimed £16,000 for a mortgage that had already been paid off.
    NFU conf Miliband
    He was suspended by the Labour Party but claimed he could prove he did not over-claim on purpose.

  • Former DEFRA minister David Miliband (right) has been criticised for spending £30,000 on repairs on his constituency home in five years, breaching guidance for claiming gardening costs and “essentials” for his children.

  • Ex-food and farming minister Phil Woolas put through claims for women’s clothing, nappies and comics.

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