MPs want to keep their perks - as well as 11% pay rise

MPs on Commons standards committee argue that other professionals who work anti-social hours are able to claim for expenses

Deputy Political Editor

MPs have launched a battle to hang on to their taxpayer-funded allowances for late-night taxis and hotels, as well as for free tea, coffee and evening meals.

Westminster's financial watchdog has called for them to lose the perks in return for receiving a £7,000-plus pay rise that would boost their salaries to £74,000.

The 11 per cent increase is expected to be approved within weeks despite the opposition of the three main party leaders to the inflation-busting move.

But MPs on the Commons standards committee said they should also be allowed to retain their benefits, arguing that other professionals who worked anti-social hours are able to claim for similar expenses.

They criticised the proposals from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) for MPs to lose their right to claim £15 for food and non-alcoholic drinks when Parliament sits after 7.30pm and for free hot drinks for visitors.

Ipsa said they should only be allowed to travel home in a taxi after 11pm or stay in a hotel after 1am. The watchdog also called for an end to taxpayers meeting the cost of contents insurance and installing a television in a second home.

Pointing out that the expenses cost £161,000 - equivalent to £248 per MP - in 2011-12, Ipsa argued that most professionals would expect to pay for them themselves.

The committee's MPs said they routinely worked 60 to 70 hours a week and countered that police, junior doctors, solicitors and some civil servants are reimbursed for working late at night.

"We do not consider Ipsa has made a case for changing the boundary of the existing scheme of business costs and expenses," they said.

The MPs added: "We find it hard to believe that employers in other sectors would expect their employees to wait until 01.00 before booking a hotel."

They raised concerns that the planned curb on late-evening taxis would affect their ability to do their job properly.

"We note that many committees begin work at 08.55 and members are expected to attend regardless of the hour at which they ended their work the night before," they said.

The committee also strongly defended taxpayers meeting the expense of buying a television and of a television licence for an MP's second home.

It said: "Since MPs' work involves being informed and available at virtually any hour, we consider access to media and the internet when residing away from home is a legitimate business expense."

On the suggestion that MPs should lose their evening meal allowance, they said: "We note that subsistence payments for food are commonly given to those who are working away from their normal workplace, whether or not they are required to work unsocial hours."

Ipsa is due to make its final recommendations on pay by the end of the year. The watchdog's credibility will suffer a potentially fatal blow if its proposal for a big rise on a backbencher's salary of £66,396 is opposed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

However, the leaders will be aware of the certain public backlash if MPs are awarded a lavish increase while most of the country suffers continuing austerity.

Mr Cameron's official spokesman said today: "MPs' pay is a matter for Ipsa. The Prime Minister's view is that the cost of politics should go down, not up."

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