AUDITORS have relaxed the rules governing MPs’ expenses.
Taxpayers are likely to fork out more each year after the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) announced a reform package yesterday.
But Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman believes more could have been done, particularly regarding travel to and from London.
MPs will be able to use official credit cards to fund spending on hotels, stationery and office telephones
Members of Parliament will be allowed to spend £115,000 a year on staff – up £5,500 on the current limit
Children of MPs can be classed as dependants up to 18, rather than the previous limit of five. The reform will allow more politicians to claim an accommodation supplement of £2,425 per year for each child
Thirty-one MPs whose constituencies are on the outskirts of London will be allowed to claim for accommodation in the capital rather than having to commute home late at night.
However, IPSA has decided not to relax the rules around rail travel.
MPs used to be able to claim for first-class fares. But the rules were tightened following the 2009 expenses scandal.
MPs can now only claim the cost of a standard-class ticket bought on the day.
Members who continue travelling first-class must book a cheaper advance ticket.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said yesterday that the ban on claiming for first-class travel should be lifted.
“I think the rule is wrong,” said the Labour man.
“I get a tremendous amount of work done on the train and you can’t do that if you travel standard-class because there isn’t the privacy.
“Other passengers can look over and see your constituents’ details.
“I still travel first-class because I book my tickets in advance meaning they cost less than standard fares bought on the day.
“But I think the travel rule was brought in symbolically.”
IPSA announced the changes yesterday after complaints from MPs that the new expenses regime is too restrictive and bureaucratic.
Mr Sheerman said: “The old system wasn’t fit for purpose and had to be replaced.
“There will always be teething problems, but I think that IPSA is costing a hell of a lot of money. They spent a lot equipping their office.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said yesterday he was relaxed about the changes in expenses rules.
The Conservative said: “It’s not a big issue for me, I’m fairly content with the way things are going.
“I’m just getting on with the job of being a new MP.”
IPSA officials refused to estimate how much the changes would cost the taxpayer, saying it would depend on what MPs decided to claim.
Chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said yesterday that taxpayers had saved £18m since IPSA took charge last May.
He said: “From the consultation it is clear there are some areas which would benefit from change and some which should not be changed.
“The key to the changes is that there can be no going back to the old ways but we must be fair to MPs and ensure that there are robust mechanisms of accountability and transparency for the taxpayer”.