John Bercow has spent thousands of pounds of public money wining and dining foreign dignitaries and fellow MPs – including around £2,000 on a leaving dinner for his deputy.
The public paid the bill for hundreds of postcard-sized photographs of the Speaker that are "sent out on request", nearly £2,000 worth of hand-finished beeswax candles, and hundreds of pounds to tune the grand piano in his apartments.
The entertainment bill for the Speaker of the Commons was revealed by a freedom of information request by the Press Association. It found that dinner in honour of Mr Bercow’s Australian counterpart cost £1,954 while the Lithuanian Speaker was treated to a meal costing £1,600.
The former Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, who served as Mr Bercow’s deputy, got her own dedicated send-off at a “standing down” dinner last year to the tune of £2,057.
Mr Bercow, however, is not breaking any parliamentary regulations. As Commons Speaker he is not subject to the same rules as other MPs – who are banned by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) from claiming meals or alcohol expenses.
The Commons said it was unable to supply any information prior to April 2012 as it has been "destroyed in accordance with the parliamentary records disposal policy".
A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s office said overall annual expenditure had fallen 19.4%, from £626,000 to £504,000 since Mr Bercow took on the job in 2009.
“These costs relate to nearly four years of expenditure including, amongst other things, staff pay, office supplies, telephone calls and rental, as well as the official entertainment of foreign dignitaries and parliamentarians traditionally provided by the Speaker’s office,” she said. “The Speaker is committed to cutting costs wherever possible.”
Dia Chakravarty, the political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “No one will begrudge footing the bill for the official functions which the Commons Speaker would reasonably be expected to host, but these costs must be kept under constant review and savings found where possible.
“While it is reassuring that the current Speaker has evidently cut expenditure by his office, how he and his staff spend taxpayers’ money should be published as a matter of course so that it can be subject to proper scrutiny.
“The fact that records prior to 2012 have already been destroyed – coupled with the need to use freedom of information laws to get this data in the first place – will not instil confidence in the public that the Speaker’s office is run with a culture of transparency and openness.”
Additional reporting by Press AssociationReuse content