Does it all add up?

Today, a report will put MPs' finances in the spotlight. They are paid £57,000 a year. They claim expenses totalling £80m - equivalent to £120,000 each. On top of this, come perks and generous pensions...
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Pay

What are they paid? The basic salary is £57,485 a year but they are paid a huge amount more in allowances, expenses, perks and pensions. These extras, including the cost of running a constituency office, work out at £119,908 per MP. That figure relates to 2002-03, and will have risen.

Pay

What are they paid? The basic salary is £57,485 a year but they are paid a huge amount more in allowances, expenses, perks and pensions. These extras, including the cost of running a constituency office, work out at £119,908 per MP. That figure relates to 2002-03, and will have risen.

How much do they get? A junior minister gets £28,688 on top of the MPs' salary. A cabinet minister receives an extra £72,862. The Prime Minister gets £121,437 more.

What do MPs say? They reckon they are worth it. Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South, says: "It's a full-time job, seven days a week and it can be 24 hours a day if you have a crisis."

Is it open to abuse? An independent review body recommends rises, but MPs have the final say. In 1996, they awarded themselves 26 per cent (when inflation was 3 per cent) and in 2001 they gave themselves 7 per cent (when inflation was 2 per cent). This year, the recommendation is 2 per cent.

Pensions

How much do they get? For each year they pay in, MPs get up to 1/40th of their final salary, twice as much as many schemes. An MP can retire on £28,742 a year after 20 years in the Commons. That is on top of any pension before or after becoming an MP. They also receive a payoff of up to £57,485 if they are defeated at a general election.

What do MPs say? Steve Webb, a Liberal Democrat MP and pensions expert, says: "It is one of the best pension schemes there is."

Are they open to abuse? Two years ago, MPs made the taxpayer pay in an extra £7m because there was a shortfall in the pensions fund.

Housing

What is available? MPs with constituencies outside London can claim £20,902 a year for living away from home. This "additional costs allowance" pays rent, hotel bills or mortgage payments and electricity and gas.

How much do they get? Many MPs use the money to buy flats in central London. The cost is about £18,200 per MP.

What do MPs say? Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat MP, claims £12,000 a year for her flat near Westminster, even though her home is just 10 miles away. She says she needed the flat when the Commons sat late but now feels "slightly guilty".

Is it open to abuse? Critics say MPs are making a fortune on the London property market by getting the taxpayer to pay their mortgage. They can live for nothing and are left with a valuable flat or house for no personal outlay. There is particular concern about MPs who live on the edge of central London but claim for a home near Westminster.

Last year, Michael Trend, a former Tory party deputy chairman, was suspended for two weeks after he "negligently" claimed £90,000 housing allowances. Barbara Follett, wife of the millionaire author Ken, is within the rules in claiming for a second home - a flat in Soho - despite being worth an estimated £15m and owning a £2m house in Hertfordshire.

Travel

What's on offer? Unlimited travel around the constituency and between their seat and Westminster. Travel warrants ensure free rail or air fares. The car mileage allowance is 57 pence a mile for the first 20,000 miles. Thereafter, the rate falls, but there is no limit on the overall mileage. MPs can claim three free trips to mainland Europe each year (for trips to the EU).

How much do they get? All MPs claim travelling expenses but the amounts vary wildly. For 2002-03, MPs received £12,898 each.

What do MPs say? John Thurso estimates his costs to be £25,000 a year to cover flights to his constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross in northern Scotland. He says: "My constituents will understand this because they know the distances."

Is it open to abuse? Rumours suggest some MPs share cars for long journeys or claim mileage even though they travel by train. Critics are alarmed at the 57p-a-mile payments. The AA says the cost of a family car doing 10,000 miles a year is 41p a mile. A car doing 25,000 miles costs 27p a mile.

Offices

What can they claim? MPs can claim up to £19,315 a year for constituency office or surgery accommodation. They can also claim between £66,458 and £77,534 for researchers and secretaries.

How much do they get? Staffing and other constituency payments cost the taxpayer nearly £55m last year, £83,500 for each MP.

What do MPs claim? Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East, says: "There is a perverse incentive to employ as many staff as possible because you get extra cash."

Is it open to abuse? Some MPs employ their wives as their secretaries, or hire other relatives.

Perks

MPs have subsidised food and drink, and free parking. Spouses and children get up to 19 free return trips to London.

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