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Further details on the rules regarding MPs' expenses with reference to claims made by Tobias Ellwood MP
CAS-25841
Disclosure Date:17 Aug 2015
Categories: IPSA - POLICY
Request

Further details on the rules regarding MPs' expenses with reference to claims made by Tobias Ellwood MP

Response

IPSA holds the information that you request. I will address your questions in turn.

  • What are the allowances for MPs to travel on the train given I understand the MP for the New Forest travels by train?

By way of background, the rules regarding MPs’ business costs and expenses are covered by the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’). You can view a copy of the current Scheme (and all previous editions) on our website at the following address: http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/transparency/Pages/Corporate-reports-and-publications.aspx.

An important principle of the Scheme is recognising that MPs are unique in their diverse working patterns. Unlike most people, MPs are required to maintain workplaces in two separate places – Westminster and their constituencies – and regularly travel between both workplaces on a weekly (or even daily) basis. The Scheme is intended to help support MPs where they incur unavoidable costs wholly, necessarily and exclusively in the performance of their parliamentary functions.

The full rules regarding travel costs can be found at Chapter Nine of the Scheme.

The MP should always have regard to whether any particular journey is necessary and to the most cost-effective way to undertake it. For allowable journeys made by public transport, MPs may buy a ticket of any class, but reimbursement will be limited to the rate of an economy class ticket available at the time of booking. For allowable journeys made by rail, reimbursement will be limited to the rate of an ‘anytime standard open’ ticket for the journey prevalent at the time of the claim.

  • Given the availability of rail services what is the rationale behind Mr Ellwood claiming rent expenses for a London property?

Accommodation Expenditure is designed to meet costs necessarily incurred on overnight accommodation which is required for the performance of an MP’s parliamentary functions. The full rules regarding Accommodation Expenditure can be found at Chapter Four of the Scheme. It is not payable to London Area MPs (a list of which can be found at Schedule 1 of the Scheme).

Parliament often sits late and MPs may be required to work past 11pm. In such instances, it is not always viable for MPs to return to their constituency homes and are therefore required to stay overnight in London.

  • How is it possible that [Mr Ellwood] can claim mileage when rail facilities are available?

Under the Scheme, private cars may be used as an alternative to public transport where there is a specific need or it is cost-effective to do so. An MP undertaking a journey by private transport as the driver will be reimbursed in accordance with rates administered by HM Revenue and Customs (which can be found in the Scheme).

  • Does Mr Ellwood claim travel expenses in and around Bournemouth? If so do reason eg. visit to a named constituent have to be declared or is it just an unaudited free for all?
  • What audit procedures are in force to scrutinize MPs’ expenses?

MPs may claim the costs of travel incurred within their constituencies (or within 20 miles of the constituency boundary). Claims are only allowed where they are incurred in the performance of the MP’s parliamentary functions, and details of the journeys must be provided when claimed. Details of all such claims can be found on our publication website at the following address: http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/.

In addition to validation checks at the time claims are made, IPSA has an audit and assurance programme which conducts audits of claims post-payment. If necessary, repayments can be required (details of which can be found on our publication website).

The Compliance Officer for IPSA, who is an independent office-holder separate from IPSA, can also conduct investigations should he have reason to believe an MP has been paid an amount to which they were not entitled. You can find out more about the Compliance Officer on his website: http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk.

  • Does Mr Ellwood claim travel expenses from his London property to Parliament? If so are the claims for mileage or by public transport given the facilities available in London?

Claims for the cost of the daily commute to and from a place of work for MPs are not permitted – which includes journeys between Westminster and an MP’s residence in the London Area.

  • I understand that Mr Ellwood employs his wife what is her role?

Mr Ellwood does not employ any connected parties[1] through IPSA’s payroll.

For reference, under the Scheme, MPs are only permitted to claim the salary costs of one employee who is a connected party (unless the MP employed more than one connected party on 7 May 2010).

We publish information relating to all connected parties employed by MPs on our website, including the name, job title and salary band. You can find this information our publication website. The following instructions may assist.

  1. The annualised data can be found at the following address: http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/AnnualisedData.aspx.
  2. Select a financial year.
  3. Click the link for ‘other
  • In his recent letter Mr Ellwood stated “my wife exhausts her rail allowance for the same reason”. Why is Mrs Ellwood entitled to expenses because even as an employee sure the taxpayer should not be subsidizing her travel?

While Mr Ellwood does not employ his wife, where MPs share caring responsibilities (such as for dependent children) with a spouse or partner, MPs may claim for journeys by their spouse or partner made in exercise of that responsibility. Such claims are limited to 30 single journeys per person between the MP’s London Area residence and the constituency residence in each year. Details of all such claims are published on our publication website.

  • Have claims been made for repairs/replacement to [Mr Ellwood’s constituency] property as such expenses are normally covered by members of the public?

MPs may only claim for Accommodation Expenditure in relation to a property in one location (ie. either in London or the constituency). As Mr Ellwood claims the cost of a rented property in London, he is not eligible for any costs relating to his constituency accommodation.

For MPs who own their property, ‘repair’ costs, such as cleaning, gardening or the purchase or maintenance of furniture are not claimable under the Scheme – and have not been since 2010.

 

  • Please include details of where we the public can make representations to establish some degree of balance and fairness as the system favours the MPs despite the previously much reported MPs’ expenses scandal.

We regularly hold public consultations on the rules set out in the Scheme, to which anyone can respond. The most recent consultation was held in March 2015.

You can find details of all consultations we have held on our website, at the following address: http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/transparency/Pages/Consultations.aspx.

 

[1] A connected party is defined as:

  1. A spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of the member;
  2. Parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the member or of a spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of the member, or
  3. A body corporate, a firm or a trust with which the MP is connected as defined in section 252 of the Companies Act 2006.