As expected, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael submitted one of the largest claims of any politician for travel costs last year – £26,051 for flights, £3,155 for rail travel and £1,680 for car mileage.
The figures were published yesterday by the House of Commons after weeks of drip-feed revelations from The Daily Telegraph which have ended the careers of several MPs due to their excessive and sometimes bizarre claims.
Mr Carmichael said the geographical spread of his constituency meant that travel within and to and from it was an expensive business. The high rail costs were due to his weekly use of the Heathrow Express, several trips by Eurostar to Brussels and travel between Edinburgh and London.
Speaking to The Shetland Times, he said: “People expect me to be in the House of Commons, but they also expect to see me in Shetland at functions; they expect me to be available to talk about windfarms and other issues of local concern.
“Although I am a public figure I still have a family life as well. Being able to get home every weekend is important to me personally – it’s my sanity valve.”
He said his travel costs were paid on his behalf. He has a travel card which was issued by the House of Commons and all his bookings are made through it. “There are plenty of things that I never get around to claiming.”
The MP’s only excesses were a DVD player and a bath sheet. And the taxpayer picked up the £90 cost of a fine for failing to pay his council tax on time.
Mr Carmichael said he had only ever designated his home in Orkney as his main home, although he is permitted to claim for having a second home in Shetland as well as in London, claiming for the rent and other costs of the one-bedroom flat he rents in Lerwick. Last year that amounted to £23,083, which is in line with most other MPs.
“I am allowed no extra allowance from this but am allowed to make the one allowance cover two properties in recognition of the realities of travelling between Orkney and Shetland.”