GROWING calls for MPs to be brought to justice over the flagrant abuse of expenses have been backed by a Dorset parliamentarian.

Speaking yesterday for the first time since the furore surrounding MPs’ expenses erupted, Annette Brooke told the Daily Echo: “I don’t think MPs should be exempt from the law if they are found to have committed a criminal act.”

On her return to Britain, following a Select Committee trip to New York and Washington, the Liberal Democrat MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole stressed that the four-day fact-finding mission had not been “a jolly.”

She said: “It involved visiting schools, meeting university staff and government officers, as well as focusing on the training of social workers. There was no time for shopping or sight-seeing.”

The MP, who lives in Broadstone, said she had been “really, really shocked” by some of the expenses’ revelations.

“I had no idea ‘flipping’ was going on but I was aware that some people were buying flats and almost becoming property developers at the taxpayers’ expense; that didn’t seem right to me.

“MPs have a clear choice; they can either buy or rent. I decided to rent a flat in London; I thought it would be simpler but there are no luxuries.

“It’s got one bedroom, a cramped kitchen with two rings to cook on and a microwave. I don’t have a washing machine so I take my bedding to the local launderette at a cost of between £17 and £20.

“About five years ago I claimed for a vacuum cleaner which my daughter found in a sale for £149. I propel it myself – I don’t employ a cleaner.”

Her London rent costs £13,700 a year. She added: “I believe in paying my staff the going rate and that is quite a sizeable chunk of my expenses’ claims. I’ve paid my council tax in advance.”

The MP, who has listed a breakdown of her expenses’ claims on her website, said she had claimed for her flat windows to be painted about four years ago.

“The heating system is really antiquated and I often go to bed with a hot water bottle which I didn’t claim on expenses. I try to keep my utility bills down; my last quarterly electricity bill was £23.

“I’ve not spent a penny of my parliamentary allowance on my family home where we’ve lived for more than 30 years. It hasn’t a moat around it, tennis courts or a swimming pool.”

On a more serious note, she added: “I was so excited about becoming an MP; now I don’t think I like this club very much. I’ve always believed that being an MP is a great privilege but what has happened has tarnished that view. The public is angry and disillusioned; I can understand why.

“I hope it doesn’t affect the way people vote in the county council elections. Our county councillors are hard-working and what has happened with MPs’ expenses shouldn’t rub off on them. Extremist parties can get in when you get a low turn-out which would be very damaging for this country.”

Members' second incomes

MANY of our local MPs have a second income on top of their MP’s salary of £64,766.

According to the Register of Members’ Interests, Annette Brooke, Mid Dorset and North Poole MP, is the joint owner with her husband of Broadstone Minerals, a small business and shop in Poole.

Sir John Butterfill, Bournemouth West, is a partner in Butterfill Associates, who are financial, corporate and real estate consultants. He is also a consultant to chartered surveyors Curchod and Co.

He has an unremunerated interest in that he is a director and shareholder of Gold Island Ltd, which holds mineral exploration licences in Iceland.

Christopher Chope, Christchurch, is a paid director and shareholder of Carclew Ltd, a small private company that provides business consultancy services. Tobias Ellwood, Bournemouth East, has no other income stream, according to the register.

The other MP with no second income is Jim Knight, of South Dorset. The only thing he has declared is a gift of two tickets to the Brit Awards in 2008.

Oliver Letwin, West Dorset, is a paid, non-executive, director of N.M. Rothschild Corporate Finance Ltd. Desmond Swayne, New Forest West, is a paid director of Lewis Charles Sofia Property Fund Limited, a company that acquires, develops and sells property in Bulgaria.

He also gets paid for being a Major in the Territorial Army and has a residential leasehold flat in West London, for which he receives rent.

Robert Syms, Poole, is a paid director and shareholder of Marden Holdings Ltd, a family business with interests in property and C Syms and Sons Ltd, a family building business.

Robert Walter, North Dorset, has no other income stream but does have land and property interests.