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Revealed: Tory minister and MPs claimed driving fines on expenses

Exclusive: It’s scandalous, says former ethics tsar as Sunak is dragged into new ethics row

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 29 May 2023 08:24 BST
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Bim Afolami, Amanda Solloway and Simon Hoare are among the MPs to have listed driving fines as expenses
Bim Afolami, Amanda Solloway and Simon Hoare are among the MPs to have listed driving fines as expenses (PA/Shutterstock/Getty)

A Tory minister who served under Suella Braverman at the Home Office is among high-profile MPs to have wrongly claimed hundreds of pounds in driving fines on expenses, The Independent can reveal.

Amanda Solloway, who is now a minister in the energy department, claimed back an £80 fixed penalty notice issued to her while she was driving in London in July 2020, listing it under “MP travel expenses”.

The revelation – branded “scandalous” by a former watchdog chair – means Rishi Sunak risks being dragged into yet another sleaze row just days after he rejected calls to launch an investigation into his home secretary’s handling of her own speeding fine.

The prime minister said a probe into Ms Braverman’s actions was “not necessary” after it was claimed that she had asked civil servants to arrange for her to take a private speed-awareness course.

Labour accused the MPs of breaking the rules and making “the taxpayer pick up the bill”, and urged Mr Sunak to clamp down on rulebreakers in his party.

An investigation by The Independent into the expenses found that the parliamentary standards watchdog had approved the penalty charges between 2019 and 2022, including a further fine expensed by SNP MP Dave Doogan.

Tory MP and select committee chair Simon Hoare, and former Tory vice-chair Bim Afolami, also got taxpayers to foot the bill for their penalties.

The penalties claimed for were issued by Transport for London, which hands out fines to drivers who violate traffic laws, such as parking on double red lines, driving in buhas lanes, and wrongly using disabled bays.

The IPSA register of MPs’ expenses shows that Mr Hoare, MP for North Dorset, claimed four times for £80 fines issued in November 2019.

Mr Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, claimed for two £80 fines in December 2021.

Mr Doogan, SNP MP for Angus, claimed for a £160 fine in January 2022.

The expenses were approved and paid by the parliamentary expenses authority IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) – but after being approached by The Independent, it admitted it had been wrong to do so.

IPSA said it would be writing to the MPs to ask for the money to be repaid, and that it would also “reiterate” the expenses rules to them.

The Independent approached the MPs’ offices to ask what traffic offences the penalty charges were issued for, but those that responded were unable to say.

Amanda Solloway (centre), the MP for Derby North, has since repaid her penalty charge (PA Wire)

Ms Solloway and Mr Afolami claimed the expenses were submitted in error, and both confirmed they had repaid the charges after The Independent approached them this week. The offices of the other MPs are yet to respond.

Labour’s shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire condemned the MPs’ claims, saying: “While Rishi Sunak’s MPs break the rules and try and make the taxpayer pick up the bill, working people are left struggling to cope with the soaring Tory cost of living crisis.

“Tory MPs flouting the rules damages public confidence in the system. Rishi Sunak must clamp down on the rulebreakers in his party and get on with delivering for the British people.”

Sir Alastair Graham, former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told The Independent that MPs should not be seen by the public as having special privileges.

“It’s scandalous. If the home secretary can pay her fine for speeding, then everybody else should pay their fixed penalty notices,” he said. “MPs are ordinary citizens like the rest of us, and if they’ve breached the regulations for driving then they have to pay the fixed penalty notice like the rest of us.

“It gives a very bad impression if they’re paid out of public funds, because it looks like they’re getting special privileges, which is most inappropriate.”

Sir Alastair said that “on the whole” IPSA had done a “decent job” running the MPs’ expenses system since the 2009 expenses scandal, but added that the revelations showed there were “clearly weaknesses in their system that they’re not carefully checking”.

“It’s very clear in all the codes and everything that you have to obey the law, therefore your driving has to be up to a standard that avoids having any further expense out of public funds,” he said.

Bim Afolami said his claim was submitted in error and he has repaid the charge after The Independent contacted him (PA Media)

The Conservative Party’s central office, CCHQ, said the expense claims were a matter for the MPs’ offices, while the SNP did not respond to a request for comment.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Mr Afolami said he had inadvertently used his parliamentary expenses card twice for the penalties, and that he had repaid the money since being contacted by The Independent.

A source close to Ms Solloway said her claim was made “in error” and has now been “repaid in full”. The minister, who is MP for the marginal seat of Derby North, worked with Ms Braverman at the Home Office in September 2022 under prime minister Liz Truss. In February, she was appointed a junior minister at the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

A spokesperson for IPSA told The Independent: “MPs are not allowed to claim for penalty charges and fines under IPSA rules. Paragraph 3.26 of the Scheme of MPs’ Staffing and Business Costs clearly states that these fines are not claimable.

“IPSA’s checks failed in some cases to identify these claims and some of them were paid. We will contact MPs and ask them to repay, where appropriate. We have changed our process to ensure any future such claims are not paid, and will reiterate the scheme rules to MPs.”

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