Author: By James Tapsfield and Gavin Cordon, Press Association
Mr Duncan, the shadow leader of the House and a millionaire from his former
career as an oil trader, swiftly issued a statement insisting his remarks
had been made in jest.
But the Tory high command has indicated it takes a dim view of the incident.
Party leader David Cameron – currently holidaying with his family in Brittany
– has been informed, while a senior party source said his comments were “unacceptable”
and he had been right to apologise.
His remarks are particularly embarrassing for the Conservatives because – as
shadow Commons leader – he leads the party on reform of the system of MPs’
expenses and allowances.
The comments threaten to undermine the hardline stance taken by Mr Cameron,
who has ordered his MPs to pay back thousands of pounds in expenses and
barred some from standing again as Tory candidates.
Mr Duncan’s position is particularly uncomfortable as he is having to return
£4,000 he claimed for gardening, having previously joked about the expenses
scandal on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson was quick to exploit the situation, accusing
him of obstructing Government efforts at reform.
“He, as the shadow leader of the House, has not exactly been helpful –
and I say this frankly about him – in bringing about the reforms that the
Government has tried to introduce,” he told the BBC.
“I must say, Alan Duncan is very fond of speaking a good game publicly,
but in private talking and acting quite differently. So I’m not surprised he
has been found out.”
Mr Duncan’s comments were covertly filmed by campaigner Heydon Prowse of the
Don’t Panic magazine and website after he was invited to the Commons by the
It followed a stunt he staged at Mr Duncan’s home – planting a flower bed in
the shape of a pound sign in protest at his claim for gardening – which
became a hit on YouTube.
In the latest recording, Mr Duncan says: “No one who has done anything in
the outside world, or is capable of doing such a thing, will ever come into
this place ever again, the way we are going.
“I spend my money on my garden and claim a tiny fraction based on what is
proper. And I could claim the whole bloody lot, but I don’t.”
When he was asked how much he spent on the garden, he replied: “About
£2,000 a year and this was £1,000 a year on expenses, you know. It’s just,
I’m afraid the world has gone mad.”
Asked why people would no longer want to become MPs, he said: “Basically,
it’s being nationalised, you have to live on rations and are treated like
In his statement, Mr Duncan said: “The last thing people want to hear is
an MP whingeing about his pay and conditions.
“It is a huge honour to be an MP and my remarks, although meant in jest,
were completely uncalled for. I apologise for them unreservedly.”
The film also shows another Tory MP, Nigel Evans, referring to some
sandwiches, claiming that he had made them himself.
“It’s my second job. Got to have a second income, mate, couldn’t survive
on 64,” he says – a reference to the MPs’ annual salary of £64,766.
A spokesman for Mr Evans said he did not want to comment.
Mr Prowse admitted he felt “slightly sorry” for Mr Duncan and said
some of his comments should be taken with a “pinch of salt” as
they were made while they were at the bar.
But he added: “The comments about MPs being treated like shit, I don’t
think it was a joke, he was serious about that.”
Labour MP John Mann said Mr Cameron should now sack Mr Duncan.
“He has got form on this. He has called for a big increase in the MPs’
salary from the front bench earlier this year,” he told BBC News.
“He is the Conservative Party spokesman and their fixer on the secret
deals on MPs’ expenses that took place across party with the Speaker.”
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said Mr Duncan’s comments exposed the “hypocrisy”
of the Tories over the expenses scandal.
“While they claim in public that they want to clean up politics, they let
their true feelings show as soon as they – mistakenly – believe the cameras
have been switched off,” he said.
Former sleaze watchdog Sir Alistair Graham told the Daily Telegraph: “It
is particularly worrying that such a senior figure, in a party that is
likely to form a government after the next election, would say something
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