Tory MPs face the music – and pay back another £125k

By Ian Dunt

Tories will pay back a further £125,000 in expenses claims after the party’s internal discplinary committee published its findings this morning.

The figure brings the total amount the party is paying back into the public purse to over a quater of a million pounds.

Forty-one Conservative MPs made new repayments today, in addition to over £130,000 already being repaid by 60 Conservative MPs.

Nine Conservative MPs have also already agreed to forgo all or part of the second homes allowance in future, estimated to be worth in excess of £100,000.

“This is not about MPs that broke the rules,” Mr Cameron said in a speech to Imperial College this afternoon.

“We all know the rules were not good enough. We need to recognise and in some ways try to atone for the mistakes of the past.”

Eleanor Laing repaid £25,000, although the document does not specify what for. John Gummer repaid £11,538 he claimed for gardening expenses, while prominent eurosceptic Bill Cash repaid £15,000 for rent/mortgage.

The Tory leader insisted repayments did not indicate “guilt or a breach of the rules”.

He added: “I am not going to pretend that this has been a perfect process. No doubt the findings of the scrutiny panel will throw up some inconsistencies. In some cases it may have been too tough. In others, some may feel it has not been tough enough.

“We had a small team. This was not a forensic accounting examination. The House of Commons examination may pick up issues which we have not. This is just one step – of many – that needs to be taken to restore both some trust and some faith in the political system.”

The so-called ‘star chamber’ has now finished looking at MPs’ expenses and is set to identify those who have made unacceptable claims.

Today’s meeting between David Cameron and every single one of his MPs, held earlier in Westminster, was expected by some obsrvers to be the start of a mass purge of the Tory party.

But clapping and the slamming of desks could be heard in the room as Mr Cameron addressed it.

Some commentators are suggesting up to half the party could change at the next general election.

Around a dozen Conservatives have already announced they will stand down at the next election. About half that have already been forced to step down from politics because of the expenses scandal. More were expected to quit after today’s meeting, but that does not appear to be the case.

Local associations are expected to force at least some MPs from their constituency if their image drops further as a result of the allegations, and others may leave the Commons as a result of the unprecedented low morale among parliamentarians.

Many backbenchers have grown increasingly suspicious of Mr Cameron’s response to the crisis, with whispers around Westminster suggesting he is using the scandal to purge the party of those who have not signed up to his modernising agenda.