Exactly what are MP's incidental expenses?

SIR – On page five of a recent Welwyn & Hatfield Times, the feature entitled MP s expenses kindly points out that Grant Shapps total claim for expenses in 2007/2008 was �127,152 ranking him 557th lowest out of 645. I also note, in the same period and no

SIR - On page five of a recent Welwyn & Hatfield Times, the feature entitled 'MP's expenses' kindly points out that Grant Shapps total claim for expenses in 2007/2008 was �127,152 ranking him 557th lowest out of 645.

I also note, in the same period and not mentioned in the feature, he also claimed for �23,118 for 'Incidental Expenses'.

Of 645 MPs this was ranked as the 88th highest claim.

Would he be so kind to explain through the Welwyn & Hatfield Times what constitutes these incidental expenses.

All his other expenses would appear to be self-evident and clearly defined.

Does he think that in the interests of transparency and the current economic climate, such a vagary should be more clearly explained?

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Chris Whitelegg, WGC.

* Editor's note: We asked Grant Shapps to explain and here is his reply:

"The bizarrely named Incidental Expenditure Provision (IEP) is in fact all the regular office expenses that you'd have running any business, like rent, rates, stationery, printers, consumables like toner, paper, computers, phones, phone lines, calls, faxes, rentals, etc, etc.

So it's basically all the costs of running two offices, one at Westminster and one in Hatfield, but not salary.

However, just to complicate things further, the Incidental Expenditure Provision and the staffing budgets are interchangeable so that you can move a proportion of IEP into staffing. Because we handle a higher than average level of constituents' case-work (according to my caseworker Katerina who has worked for seven MPs over 25 years, we get as much case work as all her previous six MPs put together each and every day!) and so in order to handle the case-work I employ additional staff on a temp basis and transfer some of the IEP budget into staffing.

Doing this makes the IEP or 'office costs' look higher, whereas in fact it's really the cost of more staff which has risen.

The fact that budgets can be transferred means that the only reliable total for how much your MP costs is to add up the total column as the WHT has done.

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