AS the row over MPs’ expenses rumbles on, Lorely Burt has launched a strong attack on the way Parliament is run, declaring that “Westminster certainly needs root and branch reform”.
The Liberal Democrat Member for Solihull made her outspoken comments yesterday as details were published of the expenses paid to her and other local MPs, including Caroline Spelman (Con, Meriden).
They showed that the total amount claimed by Mrs Burt in 2007-08, including housing expenses, was £149,002, while Mrs Spelman, who is shadow Local Government Secretary, received £120,832.
A former Dudley town councillor, Mrs Burt entered the House of Commons after the election four years ago when she dramatically unseated the long-serving Tory MP for Solihull, John Taylor, with a majority of just 279 votes.
Speaking to the Solihull Times about the revelations concerning expenses, the 54-year-old MP said: “I went into Parliament relatively late, a middle-aged woman, an outsider, and I understand how the public feel because I was amazed at what I found.
“When I started off in 2005 I had no idea how it worked and just how to find out for myself. Westminster certainly needs root and branch reform. The whole system is antiquated and currently operates like an old boys’ club.”
Mrs Burt, who is Lib Dem spokeswoman on small businesses and chairs the Parliamentary party, added that Parliament should be accountable to the people it serves and “subject to the same checks and balances that apply to everyone living outside the Westminster bubble”.
Mrs Spelman has made available to journalists receipts supporting expenses claims. They show she claimed the £681.50 cost of repairing a stone window at her second home and in 2005, £102.13 for a 12-month subscription to a satellite navigation service.
She said: “It is like a mobile phone service. You call them and they talk you through the directions.
“I often have to go to Birmingham to meet organisations which affect my constituency, such as the West Midlands Regional Health Authority or the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority. I find it difficult to find my way around Birmingham becaause I don’t really live there.
“I tried out an oral interactive service so I could get around without having to look at a map. It was only for one year. I still get lost going to places in Birmingham sometimes.”
Mrs Spelman is one of few MPs to claim nothing towards rent or mortgage on a home. There is no mortgage on her designated second home, a house in her constituency.