Woodward blasts 'rotten' expenses system

St Helens MP Shaun Woodward has launched a scathing attack on MPs' expenses system.

The Labour MP, whose own expenses were published by the Daily Telegraph, branded the system 'rotten' and an 'unmitigated disaster'.

Mr Woodward's comments are some of the damning from a senior politician since the fuore errupted last week.

He said: "I think the public look at us right now and think we've all got our noses in the trough. Our profession looks shameful - it's embarrassing - and right now if I try and make almost any defence of our collective position or my position it looks terrible.

"We have to look at how taxpayers money is spent generally, so that means I think you should have the right to look at every single one of my receipts. I just want to say I'm sorry, because I think our profession is not made up of crooks, I think it is people who genuinely want to make life better for people."

The MP for St Helens South claimed 98,079 between January 2004 and June 2008 to help pay the mortgage interest on a London flat he stays in when Parliament is sitting and 3,814 towards his council tax. There is no suggestion of any Mr Woodward's claims broke Parliamentary rules.

According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, one of Mr Woodward's assistants claimed 38p for a Muller Crunch Corner yoghurt and 1.06 for a pizza from Asda in St Helens in November 2004.

Receipts from an office supplier also reportedly revealed that Mr Woodward has regular orders for Family Circle biscuits, Gold Blend coffee, Tetley tea bags and Diet Coke.

However, although Mr Woodward, 50, whose wife Camilla is a member of the Sainsbury's grocery family, is entitled to a ministerial salary of 141,866, he only draws his MP's salary of 63,291.

He added: "We have an expenses system which is an unmitigated disaster. It has allowed people to do things which, when you hold back and look at it, look terrible. I don't think these people are crooks, I don't think they're bad people, these are good people trying by and large to do a good job, but the system we've got is rotten and has got to go."

An external review into the expenses system is due to be conducted before MPs' expense claims from 2008-2009 are made public this summer.