North East Tory MP could repay thousands claimed on taxpayer
The region's only Tory MP has voluntarily revealed claiming thousands of pounds to replace windows, repair his chimney and buy a new garden shed on taxpayers.
Hexham MP Peter Atkinson yesterday said transparency was vital as he exclusively opened his expenses to The Journal - which will put pressure on other MPs in the region to follow his lead.
He said his claims were reasonable for his second home in London, but is ready to repay if instructed to by a new Tory panel looking at expenses submitted by the party's MPs.
Mr Atkinson claimed ÃÂ£2,068 to line his chimney after it failed a safety test, which included the need to erect scaffolding, in 2006.
Some ÃÂ£329 went on replacing a gas fire that did not meet the required standards, in the same year - although the Tory MP paid nearly ÃÂ£4,000 for a new boiler himself.
The Conservative MP submitted bills totalling ÃÂ£2,968.35 to replace rotten windows in 2006 and last year.
His expenses included ÃÂ£439.94 for a television and video recorder in 2005, along with ÃÂ£132.23 for Ikea curtains and ÃÂ£99.99 for a garden shed. Mr Atkinson claimed ÃÂ£21.86 for Homebase tools to erect the shed.
Other claims included for his television licence, a ÃÂ£45 kitchen tap repair, ÃÂ£444 for a bed and a ÃÂ£119 computer table.
But unlike many other MPs, Mr Atkinson regularly does not claim for food or cleaning - apart from a ÃÂ£160 bill for carpet cleaning.
Mr Atkinson said: "I tend to clear those big items in advance [with the Parliamentary authorities]. I had spoken to them and it was within the rules.
"It seems to be a difficult judgement whether it enhances the value or is just for wear and tear.
"I think they are reasonable. I have always slightly taken the view that I wouldn't want to claim anything that I wouldn't want to be in the Newcastle Journal. People can make their own minds up on it."
He said windows had to be replaced because they were "literally falling out", adding: "Not only was there a terrible heat loss, there was a security implication as well."
Mr Atkinson's claims will now go before a Tory scrutiny committee, and he said: "I have been totally transparent and opened them up to everybody.
"If the scrutineers think that was not acceptable then of course I shall repay it."
UPDATE: The BBC has linked to this blog. Click here for a recent round-up of developments.