SWINDON MP Michael Wills has agreed to pay back just over £1,000 to the Parliamentary fees office after a dispute over train fare expenses.

Mr Wills is unhappy with the decision by Sir Thomas Legg and has vowed to claw back the money.

But rather than contesting the ruling by Mr Legg, who looked into the expenses of 753 MPs and former MPs over a five-year period, Mr Wills will pay up.

Mr Wills made the announcement last Wednesday, which was the deadline for filing appeals.

The Swindon North MP said: “In the interest of helping bring the earliest possible resolution to the crisis over Parliamentary expenses, I am paying £1,015 to the Fees Office, even though I disagree with Sir Thomas Legg’s recommendation that I do so.”

Mr Wills, who has decided to step down at the next General Election, said that he was repaying the money “even though there is no suggestion of impropriety on my part by Sir Thomas Legg and even though I am owed an equivalent sum by the Fees Office”.

He added: “The dispute over train fares is not about whether they were legitimate – everyone accepts they were and were submitted with valid receipts – the only dispute was over the fact that they were submitted 16 days after a deadline imposed by the Fees Office “The net result of this repayment is that I have paid out of my own pocket £1,015 for train travel to and from Swindon.”

Mr Wills, a Minister of State in the Ministry of Justice, was among around 200 MPs who have been asked to return money from claims, though around a third of the MPs have lodged appeals against the ruling.

Sir Paul Kennedy, a former high court judge, has been asked to hear cases in which MPs dispute the Legg findings.

Mr Wills explained that the expenses were for train fares to and from Swindon and London between September 2007 and April 2008.

Under Parliamentary rules, Mr Wills was entitled to claim train travel to and from the capital – which remains the case.

“The train fares were incurred because I need to get to and from my constituency and, whenever possible, I don’t drive on principle, for environmental reasons,” pointed out Mr Wills.

“I have always preferred to use public transport whenever possible and have done so since 1997 – although if I did drive I would be entitled to have those costs reimbursed as well.”

Mr Wills said that in his case, the ruling from Sir Thomas Legg arose “from a series of accounting mistakes resulting in double payments of claims by the Fees Office”.

The Labour MP added that as soon as these mistakes were identified in 2008, he repaid the sums involved.

Mr Wills explained: “I deducted from the repayment the amount I was owed by the Fees Office for receipted train fares to and from my constituency.

“The Fees Office has still not paid this because they say the claims were submitted 16 days after a deadline they had imposed, despite the fact they are entitled to waive the deadline.”

Mr Wills said that he was very unhappy with the ruling, claiming that the Fees Office had not replied to my letters and calls to settle this account.

He added: “Sir Thomas Legg does not disagree that I am owed the money for the train fares, which were all submitted with receipts, but he says he does not believe that this could offset the balance owed on the overpayments by the Fees Office.

“Sir Thomas Legg has not responded to my request for his reasons for adopting such an approach.

“However, although I disagree with it, I do not intend to appeal Sir Thomas Legg’s finding because I believe that such appeals may further delay the resolution of the crisis over expenses that has so damaged Parliament.

“The sooner such resolution occurs, the better.

“I am therefore repaying the remaining moneys erroneously paid to me by the Fees Office and I will now seek, by other means, the payment of the same amount due to me for train fares for which I am entitled to reimbursement.”