A WILTSHIRE MP spent more than £80,000 of public money on staff last year - but won't say how many he employs.

Each year Parliament publishes lists of the expenses claimed by MPs.

And staffing remains the highest single cost for MPs in Swindon and North Wiltshire.

James Gray, pictured, who represents North Wilts, spent £84,969 on staff.

But when asked how many people he employed, he said: "That's none of your business."

South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove claimed £86,188 to pay her three full-time and one part-time employee in 2006/07.

Her fellow Labour MP Michael Wills, who represents North Swindon, paid out £97,667 to a total of six full and part-time staff.

Mrs Snelgrove said: "Too often it is forgotten that the biggest amount of an MP's allowance is spent on paying staff.

"An MP's staff are the first point of contact for constituents in need of help in complex situations, for example immigration, child support agency and tax issues.

"I stick up for my staff's well-deserved pay."

Mr Wills said: "I pay my staff well and they stay with me which I feel enables me to do the job that I do."

In total Mrs Snelgrove spent £144,330. Just over £10,000 of that was on stationery.

"We are quite proud of that because it shows the volume of letters and emails we respond to," said Mrs Snelgrove.

"We also sent out letters to constituents telling them what we've done.

"And I think that because we are so pro-active it generates more replies from constituents.

"I'm really pleased with that because it shows we have a real dialogue with the electorate."

In North Swindon, Mr Wills spent £139,986 in total.

"I think it is crucial for the public to be able to see this information," he said.

"I was always in favour of publishing it because this is taxpayers' money and it is crucial that how we spend that money is open to scrutiny."

Conservative MP Mr Gray spent £140,290.

"But I don't keep a tally of all that," he said.

"I'm not interested. What's important is that I, as MP, do the job.

"I haven't looked at the accounts of the Swindon Advertiser but if I did I'm confident no-one will have a spent a penny more than they had to.

"I just believe one should do one's job. And so I spend what needs spending.

"If I wasn't responding to constituents' letters or doing the mileage around this rural constituency that I do, then the electors would quite rightly object.

"I employ the number of people that I do in order to do my job and I pride myself that my office is well run."