Lothians MP who claimed £250 for alarm clock rebuffs critics

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LOTHIANS MP Michael Connarty has defended his claim for a £250 alarm clock, saying MPs should not be forced to "shop at 99p stores".

The Linlithgow and Falkirk East MP was one of the latest politicians to become embroiled in the Westminster expenses scandal this week when details of his claims were published.

It emerged that Mr Connarty – while sharing a flat owned by Glasgow South West Labour MP Ian Davidson – racked up 2,181 in claims for household goods for their designated second homes.

This included 230 for bedding, a digital radio for 228.95, kitchen knives, a kettle and a set of scales worth 178.95 (all from John Lewis), an alarm clock radio costing 249.99, a Bose iPod docking station at 211.91 and 191.49 for headphones. Mr Connarty said most of the purchases were chosen by Mr Davidson and he claimed for them because he had agreed to help furnish the flat to contribute to the cost of living there.

Asked whether he considered 250 excessive for a simple alarm clock, the MP replied: "We didn't set up this system.

"Some people think MPs shouldn't have anything, but where does that end? Are we only allowed to buy things from the 99p store?"

The Daily Telegraph also revealed Mr Connarty submitted an expense claim for 509.87 for a TV and Freeview box and claimed another 1,099 for a plasma TV from John Lewis a year later. This was followed by 299 for a Panasonic TV stand, towards which the fees office paid 750.

The MP added: "The large TV is still in Ian's flat, like most of the other stuff. I only took the DAB radio as I'm a big jazz fan and he loves watching TV. We were like the 'odd couple' in many ways."

He said the living arrangement and purchases were also cleared by the Commons fees office beforehand.

The MP also defended his sale of furnishings worth 4,000 in his previous flat to Labour colleague Jim Devine after the Livingston MP took over the running of the one-bedroom property.

"I sold the flat to Jim very cheaply. I had been in it since 1992, but the furniture was all mine," said Mr Connarty, speaking from Sweden on EU committee business.

"All of the furniture in the flat was mine as I had replaced it several times over those years and I don't see why anyone has the right to question that.

"I was actually homeless until Ian bought his place and we agreed I could live with him until I found my own place.

"It was agreed I would share the cost of the mortgage and contribute to pay for furnishings in the flat.

"Ian bought them and I claimed for them and most of the stuff is still in Ian's flat.

"This was all pre-arranged with the fees office and all of the purchases I made were cleared in advance, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to buy them. Anything under 250 didn't require a receipt and none of these were objected to."

Mr Connarty said under parliamentary rules he was entitled to claim for anything in his designated second home which was comparable to what MPs would have in their own homes.

He also claimed 1,114.75 for a bed and frame, 600 of which was for an orthopaedic mattress as he has suffered a broken vertebrae and has a prolapsed disc.

Other claims include 149 for a footstool and 649 for a sofa. These were delivered to his Falkirk home, which he says was more convenient as his time at his London address was sporadic.

Mr Connarty revealed he would not allow public access to his expenses until they were published by Westminster officials in June or July. Mr Devine says he is considering publishing his early.