Over a quarter of MPs claim for first-class rail travel

 

More than a quarter of MPs have charged first-class rail travel to the taxpayer in the past year, it emerged today.

An analysis of MPs' expenses by The Sunday Telegraph found that 185 had claimed for first-class train tickets.

First-class travel has been curbed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), brought in after the 2009 expenses scandal to sweep away the previous discredited regime.

However, it is still permissible in circumstances where it would be cheaper than buying a standard open ticket.

The extent to which MPs are taking advantage of that rule was revealed after Chancellor George Osborne faced ridicule after entering a first-class carriage yesterday with only a standard ticket.

His office insisted he had always intended to pay for the upgrade and that an aide had sought out the train manager to do so. However, a television reporter travelling on the same train claimed that the aide had actually got into a confrontation with an inspector over whether he should have moved to standard.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, some of the first-class ticket claims have cost as much as £300, five times as much as the cheapest standard fare for the same route.

MPs who have travelled first-class on expenses include the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, Transport Minister Norman Baker, shadow chancellor Ed Balls and former chancellor Alistair Darling, the paper said.

In total there were 113 Labour MPs, 48 Conservatives, 19 Liberal Democrats, two Plaid Cymru and three Scottish National Party who have claimed for first class rail travel in the past year.

Ipsa's guidelines on travel expenses suggest MPs should consider "value for money" and whether cheaper, inflexible tickets will end up costing more if travel arrangements change at short notice.

"You can claim for first class travel if it is less than the cost of a standard open fare," it states.

First-class tickets purchased far enough in advance can end up cheaper than open standard tickets bought shortly before the journey.

But Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: "If MPs can get themselves organised to order a first-class ticket in advance, they should be able to order a standard-class ticket in plenty of time as well and it will almost always be cheaper.

"If standard-class travel isn't good enough for MPs, it isn't good enough for ordinary commuters who pay for their own tickets."

Education Secretary Michael Gove admitted having upgraded to first class but insisted that a minister doing so and paying "out of his own pocket" was not a story.

"I have done what lots of people will do in such circumstances which is take advantage of what used to be called 'weekend first' I think, which means that you can pay £5 or £10 or £15 in certain circumstances at the weekend, when you have got a standard class ticket, to travel in first class," he told Sky News.

"Sometimes when you are travelling with your family and sometimes when you have got work to do that additional extra payment is worthwhile.

"I don't think I have ever paid as much as George paid - out of his own pocket - to upgrade."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot