MP 'laughs off' expense row footage

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A Lancashire MP is at the centre of a political row today after being shown cracking jokes on a hidden camera about MPs' expenses.

Ribble Valley Conservative Nigel Evans stars in the secretly-filmed footage alongside Shadow Commons leader Alan Duncan who apologised "unreservedly" yesterday for complaining that MPs are treated like "****" and have to "live on rations".

The pair were caught out after campaigner Heydon Prowse sneaked a hidden camera into the House of Commons' Strangers' Bar last month following an invite by Mr Duncan.

Mr Evans is heard on film complaining about his salary and that he "couldn't survive on 64,000" and how he has been "trading down" in his choice of drinks following the expenses scandal.

The Tory, who has faced criticism for claiming mobile phone expenses averaging 375 a month, is later heard saying: "This is what it's come to now. Actually I am paying, that's what it's come to."

But he has since hit back at the footage, telling the Evening Post: "It's a joke - you can see it's a joke and anyone who tries to twist it in any other way would be a spin master larger than Peter Mandelson.

"I was being hugely ironic and as far as buying drinks, there's hardly anyone more generous in Westminster than me.

I will take collateral damage for a joke piece - even they call it a joke and I hope everyone accepts it in that fashion.

"Alan Duncan was showing generosity by inviting them in and they abused his generosity."

Mr Evans said he would not be seeking legal advice over the footage but raised concerns at how Mr Prowse managed to sneak the hidden camera into Parliament through metal detectors.

Mr Prowse, who edits the Don't Panic online magazine, was invited to the Commons by Mr Duncan after he dug a pound sign in the senior Tory's lawn after he claimed thousands of pounds in expenses from the taxpayer on gardening bills.

He told the Evening Post: "We kind of happened across Nigel Evans by accident. Alan Duncan had invited us for a drink to show he was a good sport after we did a spot of gardening for him.

"Nigel just happened to be in the Strangers' Bar when we walked in. He was in good spirits and had probably had a few glasses of wine.

"You have to take his words with a pinch of salt for those reasons, but it did perhaps show the slightly blas attitude that a lot of MPs have towards the whole expenses scandal behind closed doors."

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