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MPs use children to claim more expenses

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MPs use children to claim more expenses

Post  Panda on Fri 5 Jul - 8:53

MPs use children to claim more expenses
Almost 150s MPs have been given permission to claim expenses on behalf of their children, the parliamentary regulator has disclosed as it prepares to offer politicians a £10,000 pay rise.

David Cameron has said that such a pay rise would be 'unthinkable' Photo: PA
By Holly Watt, Claire Newell and Charles Young
10:00PM BST 04 Jul 2013
325 Comments
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has given the MPs special dispensation to claim higher expenses to rent bigger properties and to pay for their children’s travel.

The rules were relaxed in 2011 following lobbying from MPs who can now claim thousands of pounds extra for each child they register with the expenses regulator.

At least nine Government ministers have registered to benefit, Ipsa has disclosed. Some MPs have made more than £10,000 on the scheme. Such a perk would not be available in the private sector and will add to the debate over the pay and perks packages of MPs.

Laura Perrins, a barrister turned stay-at-home mother who confronted Nick Clegg live on the radio over the Coalition’s benefit change, said it was unfair that MPs were getting a pay rise.

“At a time when the finances for ordinary families are so tight, they need to think long and hard about whether what they are doing is fair,” she said. “Every other family is having to meet expenses out of their ordinary salary and MPs need to act responsibly when it comes to claiming these types of expenses.” Sir Ian Kennedy, the chief executive of Ipsa, will give a speech tomorrow in which he is expected to suggest that MPs are underpaid. Although he will not set out specific proposals, it is understood that the regulator will recommend MPs are awarded a £10,000 pay rise after the next election.

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The proposal has been condemned by party leaders. David Cameron has said that such a pay rise would be “unthinkable”. However, as Ipsa is an independent body, set up in the wake of the expenses scandal, the Prime Minister is wary of being seen to overrule its decisions and has instead called for a cap on the overall cost of Westminster.




The pay recommendation will also cast renewed scrutiny on the wider package of MP perks, including their expenses and generous final salary pension scheme.

Many MPs insist that the necessity to have two bases means that they must be compensated for the costs associated with their children.

However, critics say it is “unfair” for MPs to receive this money when they have removed support for other families earning similar amounts. Last year the Coalition stopped child benefit for families with a parent earning more than £60,000. An MP’s basic wage is £66,000.

Under freedom of information laws, Ipsa has disclosed that a total of 148 MPs, with 300 children between them, have formally registered their “dependants” so they can claim expenses associated with their accommodation and travel. Members of the Government including George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Maria Miller are all registered, as are senior Labour figures including Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper.

Since 2010, MPs have claimed almost £140,000 for their children’s travel.

Accommodation allowance rules were relaxed following claims from MPs that their family lives were being undermined by the expenses regime. Ipsa allows MPs to increase the maximum allowance they can claim by £2,425 for each child they say “routinely resides” with them.

Since 2010, MPs have claimed more than £160,000 above the cap for accommodation. Analysis of expense claims shows that more than 90 MPs have been allowed to claim more than the cap for second homes of up to about £20,000 annually. While most MPs are understood to have rented family-friendly properties, others appear to be renting flats.

Greg Barker, the energy minister, claimed £23,904 between 2011 and 2012, when the cap was £19,900. He rented a two-bedroom flat in central London before moving to another flat nearby.

Mr Barker divorced from his wife after coming out as a homosexual. His three children are understood to live with her in his Bexhill and Battle constituency, where he originally claimed expenses on a home with a rent of £697 a month.

The rule change on claims for children was introduced in April 2011. Two months later, Mr Barker “flipped” to start claiming on the London flat. His rental claims tripled to £2,150 a month. Mr Barker said: “All of the claims were pre-approved by Ipsa and fully comply with the Ipsa rules.”

Between 2011 and 2012, Nigel Adams, the Tory MP for Selby and Ainsty, claimed £26,144. Mr Adams has four children and claims 70 per cent of the extra allowance for each of them. He said: “My children routinely stay with me in London. All my claims are transparent, published and within the rules.”

Chris Ruane, the Labour MP for the Vale of Clwyd, claims £1,906 a month for his London flat. He has two children and his eldest daughter turned 18 in November. He also owns a flat about three minutes’ walk away. Mr Ruane said: “I have acted completely within the rules.”

The biggest travel claimant was Mary Creagh, the Labour MP for Wakefield, who has two children and claimed £4,061 in one year, mostly on rail tickets.

Matthew Sinclair, the chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Expenses are there to cover extra costs, not subsidise luxury apartments at taxpayers’ expense.”

Additional reporting: Ben Bryant

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