MPs eligible to claim up to £6,000 extra in expenses


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Indy Politics

MPs will each be eligible to claim up to £6,000 more for accommodation, travel and staffing costs from next month under controversial plans to relax the rules of the new parliamentary expenses scheme.

The move, announced today, will cost the taxpayer up to £4m extra a year. But it is still unlikely to assuage the anger of some MPs who claim the new regime, set up in the wake of the expenses scandal, is too punitive and prevents them from doing their jobs effectively.

Under the new proposals, MPs will now be allowed to claim:

* Accommodation costs of up to £2,425 for every child they have under 18 in full-time education.

* The cost of their children's travel to and from their constituency every week. Under the previous system, MPs could only claim for the travel and accommodation costs of children under five.

* Up to £150 a night in London hotel expenses – a 15 per cent rise.

In addition, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which draws up the expenses rules, is also increasing the number of MPs whose constituencies are defined as "outside London" by 31. This will mean they will be eligible for a second home allowance at a potential cost to the taxpayer of £500,000 a year. The amount MPs can claim for staffing and office costs will also increase from £109,000 to £115,000 a year.

The changes come after angry complaints from across the parties that the new system was too restrictive and bureaucratic. Some MPs had called for Ipsa to be abolished.

Last night, senior backbenchers suggested the authority had probably done enough to satisfy most MPs. "This is pretty much what we expected," said one. "There are some things they still need to do but there is progress in some key areas."

However, one Conservative MP claimed Ipsa was making a "two-fingered salute" to MPs. Adam Afriyie – a self-made millionaire, who does not claim expenses – said: "During my 20 years in business, I have never encountered such a useless, expensive and counter-productive expenses system."

Announcing the changes, Sir Ian Kennedy, the chair of Ipsa, admitted it did not "get everything right the first time" but said the changes went a long way to address that. "Regulators historically are very rarely at the top of the Christmas card list of those they regulate. It comes with the territory," he said.