Commons couple drive hard bargain

Nicholas Winterton, the Tory MP for Macclesfield, makes no excuses for driving a pounds 45,000 Range Rover which does about 20 miles to the gallon on the motorway.

He and his wife Ann, who is the Conservative MP for the neighbouring constituency of Congleton, travel together on Mondays the 180 miles from Cheshire to Westminster.

Their 4.6 litre Range Rover qualifies for a mileage allowance at the rate of 74p a mile, which works out at pounds 133.20. He does not believe claiming the expenses of pounds 266 for the round trip is excessive.

"Two rail tickets would be considerably more than that," he said. Travelling by Range Rover, said Mr Winterton, ensures he is "comfortable and safe" on the journey.

"When you are going to do 180 miles on the motorways that are a harrowing to say the least, you should should be able to arrive in comfort and in a reasonable frame of mind, and sufficiently alert."

Rail travel would not be possible for two busy MPs keeping a flat in London and a house in the country, he added. They have to travel each Monday with their cases, food, which they bring from the constituency, clean clothes and clean sheets.

"Several people have said to me over the weekend that it is not the right time [for MPs to make demands about pay].

"Frankly, there is never a right time. I am considering putting down an amendment saying this is a matter which should be resolved by a committee because I don't think Parliament should say what sort of car MPs should drive."

Mr Winterton is also concerned that retiring MPs would lose some of their pension entitlement if the pay rises - which are linked to pensions - are pegged to 3 per cent.

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