'Expenses scandal over' as Bristol MPs stick to rules
THE days of MPs' expenses scandals have been declared over after the latest batch of claims were published.
MPs from across the Bristol area cost taxpayers just over £1.35 million in travel, office and accommodation costs in 2011/12.
This was around £300,000 higher than the previous year. But yesterday's figures related to a longer period of time, because the timing of the 2010 General Election meant that the 2010/11 figures related to a shorter period of time.
Bristol South Labour MP Dawn Primarolo proved the most expensive, claiming £159,127 costs.
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There was a wide variation in MPs' second home accommodation costs, with wealthy Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg not claiming anything, while the four Bristol MPs were reimbursed between £15,969 and £19,265.
North Somerset Tory MP Liam Fox, who left his grace-and-favour flat part-way through the year after quitting as Defence Secretary, now pays monthly rent of almost £2,000 on a London flat.
Travel costs between Bristol and London also varied, with Mr Rees-Mogg again claiming nothing, and Kingswood Tory MP Chris Skidmore refusing to claim for petrol costs.
Expenses are managed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which was set up in the wake of the 2009 scandal, which saw MPs castigated for bizarre and extravagant claims, and "flipping" their second homes to maximise payments.
IPSA chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said expenses claims were now published every month following the "shocking" reports in 2009.
He said three things were clear from the new figures.
"First, the expenses scandal is behind us," said Sir Ian. "Remember what it was like – report after report of MPs claiming for all sorts of things; ' flipping' homes; no system of scrutiny; and all this behind closed doors.
"That world is behind us. We have overhauled the system and the expenses scandal is clearly history.
"Second, MPs are keeping to the rules. Ninety-nine per cent of claims are within the new rules. So it isn't just us doing our job – MPs are behaving responsibly and claiming within the rules.
"Third, we are talking about significant sums of money. We should be clear about this. We are publishing the details of £89 million worth of costs and expenses – about the same like for like sum as last year."
Sir Ian said people had to expect a cost if they wanted a service from MPs, pointing out that the majority of the outlay related to staffing offices.
He added: "If we want a good service from our MPs, we have to fund them.
"And if you don't think you get a good service from your MP, the answer is not to withhold funding – it is to use your vote."