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Travel by MPs' dependants
CAS-25990
Disclosure Date:8 Sep 2015
Categories: MPs' TRAVEL
Exemptions Applied: Section 21 Section 22
Request
  1. How many Mps claim housing allowance for children
  2. The names of those mps
  3. How many mps claim fares for children
  4. The names of those mps
  5. How many of those children are under five years
  6. How many of those children are sixteen or over
Response

Background information

As you will be aware, MPs are unusual in being required to work in two places: Parliament and their constituency. This necessitates travel and maintaining a separate residence away from the MP’s main home (be it in London or in their constituency). In addition, Parliament often sits after 10pm, requiring MPs to be in London late into the night. As such, non-London MPs can claim for overnight accommodation costs in either London or their constituency (but not both), in support of their role in both the constituency and Parliament.

It remains important to us that nobody should be prevented from serving as an MP because they need to care for their dependants. This flows very clearly from the principle that the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) should not unduly deter representation from all sections of society.

Under the Scheme, MPs deemed to have caring responsibilities are entitled to claim for travel for dependants and, if claiming rental accommodation under the Scheme, may have their accommodation budget limit increased to meet any additional costs that may be associated with having dependants routinely resident at the property.

The Scheme (paragraph 4.24) defines those deemed to have caring responsibilities.

“For the purposes of this Scheme, MPs will be deemed to have caring responsibilities where they:

  1. have parental responsibility for a dependent child of up to the age of 16, or up to the age of 18 if in full-time education; or
  2. are the sole carer for a dependent child in full-time education, of up to the age of 21 years; or
  3. are the primary carer for a family member in receipt of one of the following benefits:
    1. Attendance Allowance;
    2. Disability Living Allowance[1] at the middle or highest rate for personal care; or
    3. iii. Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, or basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension.

In order to be eligible to claim travel costs for a dependant or to have their accommodation budget limit increased, MPs must register their dependant(s) with IPSA.

Since 2010, 181 MPs have registered one or more dependant(s) with IPSA.[2] That an MP has registered a dependant does not in itself mean that claims for that dependant have been made.

Travel

In relation to travel claims for dependants, the Scheme[3] states that:

“Where MPs have caring responsibilities under paragraph 4.24, they may claim for journeys by the dependant in question. Such claims are limited to 30 single journeys between the MP's London Area residence and the constituency residence in each year for each dependant.”

To receive reimbursement, MPs must submit evidence of journeys undertaken by dependants, which are then validated and paid.

Accommodation

With regard to accommodation expenses for dependants, the Scheme3 states that:

“An MP who is eligible to claim Accommodation Expenditure for rental costs may have their budget limit increased by up to £2,425 in any financial year for any additional expenditure that may be required, for each person for whom that MP has caring responsibilities (known hereafter as the “dependant”), provided that they can certify that the dependant routinely resides at the rented accommodation.”

All MPs have a budget against which they can claim accommodation expenditure. For example, a London Area MP has an annual budget of £20,600, against which they can submit individual claims for accommodation expenditure. As set out above, MPs who claim for rental accommodation, and who have individuals for whom they have caring responsibilities routinely-residing at the property, may have their budget increased by £2,425 for each dependant registered. This uplift is intended to cover an increase in costs associated with having an extra person in the accommodation. Importantly, the uplift for dependants simply increases the budget limit for accommodation, against which rental and associated costs may be claimed. A London Area MP with an accommodation budget of £20,600 would therefore see their budget limit increased to £23,025 should they register one dependant, and certify that they are routinely resident at the rented accommodation. MPs are required to follow the standard procedure for submitting claims in accordance with the Scheme.

The information that we hold in relation to claims made for rental accommodation and associated costs does not separately identify additional costs directly attributable to dependants routinely residing at the property. In contrast to claims for travel for dependants, all of which relate to discrete journeys undertaken by dependants and are therefore easily distinguishable, any additional accommodation costs arising from one or more routinely-resident dependants may form part of general costs, such as rent, utility bills or council tax.

For example, if an MP has a dependent child routinely residing with them, then they are likely to see an increase in electricity costs. Neither the supporting evidence required by IPSA or the MPs’ submissions via the online expenses system can identify the proportion of the electricity bill that has been incurred as the result of one or more dependants being routinely resident. Further, it would not be possible to make the assumption that a high claim made by an MP with a registered dependant was directly attributable to the dependant(s) as there are many other factors that may have contributed to the increased cost of the bill.

Information published on our website: travel by dependants

Travel claims made in relation to dependants are published on our publication website. Details of claims for expenses are published in a two month cycle, three months in arrears. The next publication date for expense claims is Thursday 10 September 2015, covering claims processed between April and May 2015.

The following instructions may assist you in filtering the information:

  1. Select ‘Search Function’ via the menu bar at the top of the page
  2. Under ‘Select MP(s), Constituencies, Postcode or Region’, tick the box to select all MPs.
  3. Under ‘Select a year and, optionally, month(s)’ select the financial year you would like to view
  4. Under ‘Select category(s) of Business Cost or Expense’ select ‘Travel’
  5. Under ‘Select type(s) of Business Cost or Expense’ select all options that relate to dependants
  6. This information may be exported into an spreadsheet, allowing the information to be filtered and interrogated with the use of standard Excel tools

Using the information published on our website, you can find out the names of those MPs who have made claims for travel by a registered dependant.

The FOIA states that information that is accessible by other means is not subject to release. Therefore, as the information you request is already available on our website it is exempt from disclosure under section 21 of the FOIA (information accessible to applicant by other means).

Section 22(1) of the FOIA states that information intended for future publication is exempt from release. We have considered whether the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the application of the exemption. It is our opinion that the public interest is best served by publishing a full list rather than on an ad hoc basis, as in this way a clear and complete set of information is published, avoiding any potential confusion. It is for this reason that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this stage.

Information to be published on our website: accommodation uplifts

On Thursday 10th September, we will be publishing details of all expenditure incurred in the financial year 2014-15. As part of this publication, you will be able to view each MP’s budget and see if they’ve received an uplift to their accommodation budget as a result of registering one or more dependant(s).

This information will be available at the following address: http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/AnnualisedData.aspx

The following instructions may assist you in filtering the information.

  1. Select financial year 2014-15 in the drop down box.
  2. Wait for the link for ‘Other data for 2014-15’ to appear, and click it when it appears. This will open the information in a spreadsheet.

Section 22(1) of the FOIA states that information intended for future publication is exempt from release. We have considered whether the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the application of the exemption. It is our opinion that the public interest is best served by publishing a full list covering a set period (such as the financial year) rather than on an ad hoc basis, as in this way a clear and complete set of information is published, avoiding any potential confusion. Further, as this information will be available in a number of days, we do not believe the public interest in immediate disclosure outweighs our agree publication schedule. It is for this reason that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this stage.

Information being disclosed: age of dependants

MPs are required to provide the date of birth of each dependant they register with us. As noted earlier, that a dependant has been registered with us does not necessarily mean that claims have been made for them. An MP may register a dependant with us but subsequently choose not to make any claims.

According to our records, of all the dependants that have been registered since 2010 for current MPs, at the time of responding, 82 dependants are aged five or under and 95 are aged 16 or over. Of the dependants aged 16 and over, many will have now exceeded the relevant age limits specified in the rules provided above, and will no longer be eligible for claims.

 

[1] Following the introduction of Personal Independence Payments for those 16 and over, MPs will be deemed to have caring responsibilities if they are the primary carer for a family member in receipt of the daily living component of personal independence payment.

[2] This figure does not include any MPs who departed at the 2015 General Election.

[3] These rules have been in place in all editions of the Scheme. The references here are to the current, seventh, edition.