MP responds to expenses questions

Tory MP Christopher Fraser yesterday responded to questions about his expenses claims, insisting they compared favourably with other Norfolk MPs.The South-West Norfolk MP has announced he was standing down at the next general election because of his wife's ill health.

TORY MP Christopher Fraser has responded to questions about his expenses claims, insisting they compared favourably with other Norfolk MPs.

As reported by the Times, the South-West Norfolk MP has announced he is standing down at the next general election because of his wife's ill health.

The decision came after it emerged that his main home was a �1.2m Dorset farmhouse, while he had also spent �1,800 of taxpayers' money on trees and fencing for his "second home" at South Lopham, near Diss.

Mr Fraser has yet to give an interview about the matter. But in an email last week he said it was easy to select individual costs without seeing the overall picture.

"I have one of the largest constituencies by area and by electorate," he said. "If you look at the cost of servicing my constituency, it compares favourably to others in Norfolk. Overall for the year 2007/08, I was fourth out of eight in ranking for overall spend, and for the period since the last election until 2007/08 I was sixth out of the eight lowest overall."

He said his staffing costs had risen by 50pc since 2005/06 as he needed extra full-time staff to help after initially starting out with interns. But he declined to give an account for the �1,792 claimed for "spouse's travel" in 2007/08 stating that "all spouses are entitled to claim for travel".

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He also defended a �305 claim for air travel and said his �10,459 communications allowance had been spent on "non-party-political newspapers, leaflets, contact cards [and] website".

"Since that date, quite a lot of my communication allowance has been spent on advertising my contact details in the EDP and other Archant-owned local newspapers," he added.

"I hope my constituents see that as value for money given that I had to establish an office on getting elected in 2005, which other colleagues in the county did not have to do."