Heald to call for review of MPs expenses
OLIVER Heald will call for a review of MPs expenses unless there are strong proposals from a House of Commons committee currently examining the issue. His comments come in the wake of the expenses scandal surrounding Conservative MP Derek Conway, who h
OLIVER Heald will call for a review of MPs expenses unless there are "strong proposals" from a House of Commons committee currently examining the issue.
His comments come in the wake of the expenses scandal surrounding Conservative MP Derek Conway, who handed over £400,000 of public money to his wife and two sons.
Mr Heald, who has during his Parliamentary career been a champion of the need for transparency in public life, said the behaviour of the disgraced Mr Conway was "shocking".
He hopes that a House of Commons review now taking place under the Senior Salaries Review Body will produce proposals to strengthen the situation.
"If that body doesn't produce a set of strong proposals then I think there is a case for having a national review by the Committee on Standards in Public Life," he said.
"There is every chance that the proposals the Senior Salaries Review Body comes up with will be acceptable and implemented," he said.
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Mr Heald, the MP for North-east Hertfordshire, claimed £89,744 in expenses last year for his staff.
This includes his wife, Christine, who is office manager, a secretary and a researcher, and temporary staff who are used for holiday cover and when the there is a demand.
Mrs Heald has worked in her husband's Parliamentary office for the past 15 years and was previously for 12 years a senior civil servant at the Home Office. She has a first-class degree in social administration.
Mr Heald said: "She is well qualified to work in my office and she is extremely knowledgable having worked around Whitehall and, obviously, has great experience of the constituency.
"It would be a pity not to employ someone who is qualified to do such a job," he said. "You really need that kind of quality in doing such a job."
All of Mr Heald's staff is employed under the terms and conditions set out in guidance by the House of Commons.
"I've always followed the codes absolutely to the letter," he said.
During a 12 month period Mr Heald's office receives about 10,000 letters, and there are also about 100 e-mails each day.
In November when last year's MP expenses were revealed, Mr Heald said that he believed his expenses of a total of £144,115 were "in line with those of other MPs with a similar size constituency".
He said the constituency - which covers Royston, Buntingford, Letchworth, Baldock and surrounding villages - is "one of the largest in the Home Counties and by far the largest in Hertfordshire".