Cheap at half the price? MPs' expenses plummet

Expenses claimed by MPs have halved in the new Parliament, the first breakdown of payments since the general election has revealed. They were paid £3.1m between May and the end of August, with more than 70 MPs claiming nothing over that period.

Although there were numerous bizarre claims – including 14p for car mileage and £1 for cleaning gloves – the new regime appears to have deterred MPs from treating their expenses as a "nice little earner". The average bill for expenses of about £800,000 a month contrasts with a monthly average of nearly £2m in 2009. Since May, expenses payments have been administered by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which has faced bitter criticism from MPs for running a system that is too complicated and inflexible.

Frustration surfaced in the Commons yesterday with MPs protesting that the system favoured independently wealthy politicians and even left some MPs sleeping on office floors.

Ipsa published details yesterday of 22,000 expenses claims paid to 576 MPs in three-and-a-half months; the remaining 74, including Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, did not submit any claims.

MPs received £528,710 for accommodation, £80,953 for mortgage interest and £21,471 for hotel bills. Travels costs included £201,290 for mileage, £224,785 for public transport and £6,348.91 for taxis.

There was a spate of claims from MPs setting up offices, with a total bill of £50,874 for office furniture. Between them MPs spent £38,660 for mobile phones, £31,219 on photocopiers, £26,695 on designing and running their websites and £2,324.99 on shredders.

Smaller items reimbursed by the taxpayer included the £9.78 washing-up bowl and the £2.49 hand towels bought by the Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield and the £1 cleaning gloves bought by Gloria De Piero, the shadow Culture minister. The office of the Tory MP for Stroud, Neil Carmichael, is brightened up by a £22.97 clock.

The largest total was paid to the Conservative MP Keith Simpson, who received £20,752, much of it to cover mileage claims between London and his Mid-Norfolk constituency.

The smallest overall claim was the £8.70 repaid to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP for Islington North, for his office stationery costs.

The biggest single item claimed was the £9,003 cost of "bought-in office management" from Siobhain McDonagh, the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, while the smallest was the 14p reimbursed to Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth & North Perthshire, to cover the cost of driving 500 metres.

David Cameron claimed £2,581.13 in total, most of it (£2,408.75) a subscription to the Parliamentary Resources Unit, which carries out research for MPs. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, claimed £2,066, including two office cleaning bills of £19.09.

In the Commons last night, Adam Afriyie, the Tory MP for Windsor, led an all-party assault on Ipsa's operation. He said: "What the system seems almost designed to create is a parliament for those who are wealthy.

"If a member does not have sufficient resources to subsidise themselves in their role, they are then ensnared in a vice-like grip which is designed to bring them into disrepute."

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