MPs’ expenses claims rise by a quarter

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By a Newsnet reporter

Although MPs said that they were chastened by 2009’s expenses scandal, and promised to tighten up regulations, the latest published figures for expenses claims at the House of Commons show the amount claimed by MPs in 2011-12 rose by a quarter compared to the previous year.  At £89.4m, the figure is now close to the amount claimed just before the expenses scandal broke.

However the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) insisted that the figure was misleading because 2010 had been an election year, and therefore the £71m claimed by MPs in that year was lower than normal due to the impact of the general election.

IPSA Chairman, Sir Ian Kennedy, said the rate of claims had been about the same last year, and added that 99% of claims were within the rules.

The IPSA Chairman said:

“If we want a good service from our MPs, we have to fund them,” he said. “And if you don’t think you get a good service from your MP, the answer is not to withhold funding – it is to use your vote.”

In 2008-9 the total expenses bill was £95.4m, while in 2009-10 – the year that expense abuse was publicised – claims fell markedly to £90.7m.  A number of MPs were convicted of fraud and imprisoned as a result of the scandal.  A far larger number were ordered to repay significant sums which had been wrongly claimed.  

The scandal brought to light some of the tricks used by certain MPs to maximise their expense claims.  One popular trick was to “flip” properties, where MPs who owned more than one house were able to change the property listed as their “main residence” in order to benefit from tax breaks available to MPs.