Published in the Observer Sunday 31st May
‘Dennis Skinner, the 77-year-old Labour MP, told how he got a fateful call from the Sunday Telegraph yesterday asking questions about his parliamentary expenses. “I explained to them I had the lowest expenses in the House and the best voting record, but they wanted to know about £3,500 for alterations to my bathroom and kitchen and £800 for a sofa bed,” he said. “What their figures did not show was the alterations cost £12,800 and the pull-out bed £1,756, but I only charged the lower sums because I thought it was wrong to do otherwise. They have got a bloody cheek if they think I am on the fiddle.
“I only had the work done because, after my triple by-pass heart operation, I was told by the consultant to change the bath for a shower and make sure that the cupboards in the kitchen were at the right height and not to do any heavy lifting. He said it was important for my recuperation that I did things right or I would be back where I was. “The new sofa bed was needed because the other one was too hard for me to pull out. If I had put in the full amount, I am sure the fees office would have paid up, but it would have been wrong. I told the chap from the Telegraph all this, but I got the impression they were still going to do a story on me.”
Skinner, the MP for Bolsover, Derbyshire, said that he was upset that anyone could accuse him of fiddling his expenses. “I have bought my flat myself and never charged a penny of it to the taxpayers. I have worked out that I am living in London on £27 a day while David Cameron is claiming a damn sight more for his big house in Oxford.”
Skinner, affectionately known as the Beast of Bolsover for his aggressive attitude towards the Conservative party, was in classic form last week when he was heard muttering about plans to publish members’ expenses online. “I’m not going to be putting my expenses on the internet,” he complained to friends. “I wouldn’t know how. I’ve never sent an email and I don’t intend to start now.”‘