Expenses attack angers North Norfolk's MP

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has hit back at national newspaper story which branded him as one of the top 20 claimers as the row over Parliamentary expenses continued.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has hit back at national newspaper story which branded him as one of the top 20 claimers as the row over Parliamentary expenses continued.

The Liberal Democrat said the misleading claims had led to the 'worst 24 hours of my life' and that the 'very painful' episode had left him feeling 'deeply depressed'.

The newspaper claims were misleading because they grouped personal expenses with office costs.

After being branded a 'sinner' in the story, he even considered whether to carry on with his political career, but was now hitting back, assuring people that some MPs could be trusted.


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'The truth is that far from being on the gravy train, we are in overdraft most of the time,' he added.

Mr Lamb conceded his running costs were higher than usual because of three periods of maternity leave among staff which had to be covered.

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But being a busy MP with a large rural consistency also meant 'a staggering amount of work and high mileage.'

And Mr Lamb pointed out his claims for the additional cost allowance, which helps towards having a second home near Parliament and has been at the centre of the recent furore, were the second lowest among the Norfolk MPs.

On his website, which contains full details of his claims, Mr Lamb said: 'The bulk of what I claim is not money that comes to me - it is to pay my staff, run the office and deal with constituency casework.'

Since being elected in 2001 he had put 'body and soul' into the job, which involved long hours of work, seven days a week and being apart from his family - though wife Mary had also put in hundreds of hours of voluntary casework with no pay and no travel claims.

MPs can claim for the cost of staff, running an office, correspondence, postage, travel and living in London.

Mr Lamb said he had downgraded from first class to standard rail travel to cut costs, despite losing a guaranteed table at which to work.

Claims for a plumbing repair at his London flat even saw him use a tradesman from Norfolk rather than London because it was cheaper. And the family had provided their own furnishings such as a hi-fi and rug.

He had also under-claimed for items, as he rarely claimed for tube and taxi fares, but admitted claim form-filling was not top of his priorities.

'It's quite hard to remember sometimes. I have made mistakes over this period, but where I've noticed it I corrected it straight away,' he admitted.

Now the MP faces another problem. Having recently moved offices in North Walsham to save money, he had received an unexpected potential bill of �19,000 for the old premises.

'It's a legitimate claim, but I have got a real dilemma. If I claim it I will be condemned as a sinner and it will put me at the top of the list. If I do not I will be liable for it and will have to put it on my mortgage.'

He was 'horrified' by the abuses that had been uncovered and was backing calls for change to a system 'which everyone accepts and trusts.'

To see Mr Lamb's expense claims in full log on to www.normanlamb.org.uk

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