DUP MPs top UK parliamentary expenses table
THE DUP’s Jim Shannon had the highest expenses of any of the UK's 650 MPs last year, submitting claims totalling £264,500, figures have shown.
It is the second year running that Mr Shannon tops the expenses pile, having also submitted the highest claims in 2013-14, at almost £235,000.
Ian Paisley Jr, the North Antrim DUP MP, came second – also for the second consecutive year, claiming £227,000.
The total amount, provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which is responsible for MPs expenses, covers accommodation, travel, staff and office costs.
Mr Shannon, the MP for Strangford, claimed £193,000 for office and staff costs in 2014-15, £30,000 more than party colleague Mr Paisley.
Mr Shannon’s travel bill of almost £59,000 for last year was nearly ten times that of SDLP leader and South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell.
The Strangford MP’s total expenses claims have increased every year since his election five years ago, rising from £130,000 in 2010-11.
Mr Shannon told The Irish News that he had "not seen" the figures, but said his staff and office costs were due to "very busy" constituency offices which dealt with 30,000 people last year.
He said: "I run two full-time offices and have eight employees, five full-time and three part-time. Last year we had a maternity cover for one employee and sickness issues for three."
"A lot of the sickness is down to the stress and strain of the office, as we have probably the busiest office in Northern Ireland. We receive 7,000 letters a year and around three times that volume of emails."
Mr Shannon, whose voting record was 62 per cent in the Hansard records for the previous parliament to May, added: "I would say that I have one of the best attendance records and workloads in Westminster. Last year I was on committees and there for votes, and the flight is the only way to get there."
The Strangford MP said that he was "in the process" of making savings and would aim to cut down on office costs.
He said: "However I cover a huge area from Portaferry to Newtownards and I do a lot of house calls, and I think people appreciate all that service."
Mr Paisley’s total, meanwhile, appears to have been driven upwards by accommodation costs totalling £31,000.
The North Antrim MP’s claims have fallen since 2012-13, when he received £238,000, but rose from 2013-14, when he claimed £215,000.
In July it was reported that Mr Paisley was one of 18 MPs across the UK to have had their official credit card suspended, due to a £6,000 debt.
A spokesman for Mr Paisley said the credit card suspension was due to “unreconciled invoices” and said the matter had been addressed with IPSA.
Mr Paisley did not respond to a request for comment from The Irish News last night.
In total, the north's 18 MPs claimed £2.4 million in 2014-15.
The lowest claim by any of the north’s MPs was from Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Féin, who claimed £133,000, although the party's representatives do not take their seats at Westminster.
Of the MPs who did attend the House of Commons, the lowest claim was £150,000, from Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim.
The 10 MPs with the largest total amount claimed in expenses in 2014-15.
The total excludes expenses categorised by Ipsa as travel.
1. Jim Shannon (DUP, Strangford) £205,798.23
2. Ian Paisley Jr (DUP, Antrim North) £195,247.59
3. Jo Swinson* (Lib Dem, Dunbartonshire East) £193,224.73
4. Gregory Barker** (Con, Bexhill & Battle) £193,140.12
5. Sarah Champion (Lab, Rotherham) £193,085.83
6. Chuka Umunna (Lab, Streatham) £192,170.91
7. Malcolm Bruce* (Lib Dem, Gordon) £191,952.51
8. Tim Loughton (Con, East Worthing & Shoreham) £188,428.29
9. Mike Weatherley** (Con, Hove) £188,354.39
10. Penny Mordaunt (Con, Portsmouth North) £186,452.50