Alan Duncan, the senior Conservative MP who oversees the party’s policy on MPs’ expenses, claimed thousands of pounds for his garden – but stopped after agreeing with the fees office that his expenditure “could be considered excessive”.
Mr Duncan’s gardening claims raise serious questions about whether expenses by some MPs can be justified as entirely necessary for their parliamentary work. In a three-year period, he recouped more than £4,000. He has not been asked to repay the money despite later concerns over the garden claims.
The bill for £3,194 for gardening in March 2007 was not paid by the fees office, which wrote to Mr Duncan suggesting that the claim might not be “within the spirit” of the rules.
However, by then the multi-millionaire MP for Rutland and Melton had claimed £4,000 of gardening costs that were approved. In a letter to the MP, the office said that it expected gardening costs “to cover only basic essentials such as grass cutting”. Mr Duncan submitted receipts showing that his gardener was being paid £6 an hour for up to 16 hours a week in grounds of less than an acre.
In March 2007, Mr Duncan claimed £598 to overhaul a ride-on lawn-mower and then a further £41 to fix a puncture a month later.
Mr Duncan also claimed £1,400 a month for his mortgage interest on his home in Rutland. He bought the large detached house without taking out a mortgage on the property itself in January 1992, shortly before he was elected to parliament.