Why do so many Liberal Democrat MPs not claim for energy costs?

There’s a new expenses scandal in the offing. Today’s Sunday Mirror headline screams that 340 MPs are getting their second home energy bills paid. Yes, energy bills are a hot topic at the moment but let’s look behind the hyperbole.

Of course, MPs are paying their own energy bills in their homes out of their salaries. What is being paid by the public purse is the cost of their accommodation in either their constituency or London. If you’re going to do the job of an MP properly, you need two bases. It stands to reason, therefore, that the second base should be paid for by the taxpayer as it would be by any other employer.

It is a perfectly legitimate expense. IPSA, the independent expenses administrator, is explicit that these costs are allowed in its guidance.

Of the 340 claims outlined, only those above the average energy bill of around £1350 a year make me raise my eyebrows. There are only about 20 of them. The most expensive Liberal Democrat is Sir Nick Harvey at £740. Most are significantly cheaper with Ian Swales claiming just £21.32.

Only 31 Liberal Democrats made a claim at all, not that much more than half. What about the rest?

Well, 7 of them don’t qualify because their constituencies are in or around London.

Of the rest, some will use hotels rather than rent flats. Former Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore does that. Tim Farron told me on Twitter that he doesn’t get charged separately for energy which explains his lack of claim.

I would be annoyed if anyone was paying legitimate work expenses out of their own pockets. You’d certainly be hard pressed to find a journalist who did. It puts pressure on others to do the same and if you don’t provide expenses you end up with Parliament being the preserve of the independently wealthy. As I said recently at another exaggerated headline:

I am more than happy for some of my taxes to go towards ensuring that we have a diverse range of people in Parliament. If we didn’t give these pretty modest allowances, then you might well find that parents with particularly very young children would just not bother standing unless they were rich enough to be able to afford a nanny 24/7. I don’t think it’s healthy for a legislature to be lacking in parents with children of all ages. We need their experience in there.

You can say the same about energy costs.

The spiralling cost of heating homes a huge issue, but let’s not use it as another excuse to give MPs a kicking.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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48 Comments

  • It all sounds like a fabricated scandal. MPs whip outside outside London are allowed to rent a flat in the capital and claim expenses for their rent and basic utility bills, up to a maximum. The cap just about pays for a 1 bed flat at London prices, which is not extravagant. Given that MPs pay their own bills on their family home, it is not unreasonable at all.

  • Simon Bamonte 3rd Nov '13 - 4:52pm

    @Caron:
    The spiralling cost of heating homes a huge issue, but let’s not use it as another excuse to give MPs a kicking.

    Sorry, Craon, but this is just another smack in the face to those of us who cannot afford to heat our homes. While MPs of all colours are preaching about austerity and putting on extra jumpers, while the disabled and elderly are often having to choose between eating and keeping their homes warm, this is just taking the p*ss. Many of these politicians which you are so keen to defend are getting their heating paid for by the taxpayer while they tell us all to switch supplier (which usually makes no difference as the energy cartels prices all rise at the same time). I bet they don’t have to worry about switching suppliers because, hey, they just get the taxpayer to cough up for their bills. They already make over £60k a year, which would be a fortune for most of us. They are happy to tell us the nation needs to live within its means but don’t seem to feel that austerity applies to them. I notice Mr. Davey himself has claimed for his energy expenses as well, while insinuating we should put on a jumper or switch suppliers. Why can’t HE put on an extra jumper and be forced to experience austerity as well?

    Defending this is just more out of touch nonsense from a political class that constantly says one thing to the “plebs” and does another thing in private.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Nov '13 - 5:22pm

    @Simon Bamonte
    ” I notice Mr. Davey himself has claimed for his energy expenses as well, while insinuating we should put on a jumper or switch suppliers”
    What makes you think that?

    If you check on the IPSA site at http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/SearchFunction.aspx nothing comes up for gas, electricity or other fuel for Ed Davey

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Nov '13 - 5:31pm

    I’m not complaining that no Libdem MPs appeared to have put in excessive claims.

    Better that we concentrate on asking how on earth the following MPs managed to clock up such huge amounts in the expectation that we the people would cover them:

    Nadhim Zahawi £5822 (as reported in the Sunday Mirror)
    Alan Duncan £3988
    Andrew Robathan £4586
    Edward Leigh £3337
    Hugo Swire £3198
    Margaret Beckett £3960
    Peter Hain £4571

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Nov '13 - 5:32pm

    “I would be annoyed if anyone was paying legitimate work expenses out of their own pockets. ”
    Yeah, I’m a bit annoyed about it too, but at least I’m employed. What you say sounds perfectly reasonable and would’ve been quite common practice a few years ago in certain work environments, but as far as I can tell that sort of thing is largely reserved for senior staff these days (one rule for them, another rule for the rest of us…). Mostly I pay my own education/training, work-related travel and accommodation (cheap hotels and student accommodation), not because the office shouldn’t be paying it but because they simply don’t. If I argue about it I simply won’t get my contract renewed. So instead I have a second job to pay for the additional costs that my first job fails to cover. On this income I am of course taxed to the eyeballs.

    Consequentially, perhaps it isn’t very fair of me but I do get a giggle out of watching the papers put the boot in. Bills like £5,822 or £4,000 are ridiculously high if these numbers are accurate. Some, it is noticeable, are charging the bills for their constituency home. There aren’t many one-bed flats in London that require £4,571 in ‘expensive heating oil’.

    Maybe we should do unto them as they do unto us – come up with appropriate specifications and submit the ‘second-home in London’ requirement to competitive tender in order to drive prices down. I’m sure Travelodge and co would come up with some appropriately tasteful offerings. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander…

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Nov '13 - 5:44pm

    In accountancy the part of the bill that is claimable is the extra expense occured due to working outside your normal place of work. You can’t claim for all of your energy bills because you don’t have more showers just because you are working elsewhere and this is the system that IPSA should operate.

  • daft ha’p’orth I would hope that you claim your expenses that your employer forces you to incur out of your own pocket. Provided you keep necessary records, HMRC will happily waver the income tax you’ve paid on this part of your salary. It can be instructive and remunerative to know the difference between HMRC expense rules and a Company’s expense policy…

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Nov '13 - 5:51pm

    @Roland
    I may yet hire an accountant. Too used to PAYE…

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 3rd Nov '13 - 6:45pm

    Eddie,

    It would depend on whether or not there was someone in the family home. Even if the MP isn’t there, their home would still be heated, lit etc and the marginal costs of an extra shower or what have you would be minimal – I speak from personal experience here.

    So, the technical eligible claim would be most of the additional costs, and in reality, given the difficulty of establishing what proportion of the family home expenses could be assigned to the MP, it would be likely to be disregarded.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd Nov '13 - 7:41pm

    To be very clear, Simon Bamonte is wrong. Ed Davey does not claim accommodation costs as hs Kingston constituency is within commuting distance.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Nov '13 - 8:21pm

    Mark, ah right, my main point is that it’s not just as simple as energy bills being claimable or not, so I think we kind of agree here.

  • Simon Bamonte 4th Nov '13 - 12:02am

    I obviously have read some wrong information, so I retract what I said about Ed Davey. I do, however, stand by the rest of my post.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 4th Nov '13 - 8:25am

    @ Simon Bamonte,

    So, how much should an MP be paid, if you think that their salary is so high? Is their job more, or less, responsible than, say, an accountant? How many hours are they expected to work?

    The suggestion that, because MPs earn £60,000 plus a year, they are somehow oblivious to the concerns of the ‘rest of us’ is simplistic and a base generalisation of the sort that eats away at our politics like a cancer. Politicians are not ‘they’, they are ‘us’, because we put them there. And building a wall between the public and those that represent us, as your comment does, hardly helps to preserve and sustain civil society.

    So, why not offer us something positive, that might be done, rather than join the likes of the Daily Telegraph in undermining our society by blindly attacking a whole group indiscriminately?

  • Daniel Jones 4th Nov '13 - 9:55am

    I struggle to pay my energy bills – being a phd student is not the most lucrative employment. But that is my fault/choice and not the MPs. They also do a different job to me, as does the manager of my local tescos or a banker etc. I have no idea why we have come to this situation of ‘if I don’t have it then no one else can’ but it is petty and the same kind if approach to equality as Labour tried – if you cannot advance people, then bring everyone down to the same level. Can someone take the class warfare out behind the shed and shoot it please? It is a silly trick pumped up by politicians to try and get votes.

  • @Mark Valladares

    “So, why not offer us something positive, that might be done, rather than join the likes of the Daily Telegraph in undermining our society by blindly attacking a whole group indiscriminately?”

    Mark the unemployed, sick and disabled are constantly attacked by the same Telegraph, Daily Mail etc etc. Pity we don’t see more people jumping to their defense.

    With Regards to MP’s and Expenses, my personal opinion is “expenses” should be removed from being paid directly from Whitehall.
    MP’s should be treated no differently to that of any other employee who works in either the private or public sector up and down this country.
    An MP should receive their Salary, then they should fill in a Tax Return for the HMRC at the end of the year for any expenses and allowances that are applicable to them.
    Travel costs incurred to carry out their job {All Receipts Submitted}
    Rental costs/ Hotels costs to carry out their job away from their *normal* place of residence {All receipts Submitted}
    Utility costs associated with that 2nd place of residence {All receipts submitted}
    Meal Allowance if working *away* from their {normal place of residence/2nd home}
    Accountancy Costs {receipt Submitted}

    Every Penny accounted for by the HMRC.

    That’s how the rest of us *normal* Citizens of the United Kingdom have to live and I don’t see why MP’s should be any different.

    The employee’s of MP’s should be employed directly by and paid for by the Government as well. Lets do away with the ludicrous Salaries some MP’s Family are receiving by working for their Father/Mother/Spouse
    These positions should be advertised in the general job market where everyone can apply for the position.

    Politics needs to be more transparent and still even after the expenses scandal of 2009 it is still failing miserably.

    The most vulnerable people in society unemployed, sick and disabled are constantly vilified by members in Government and by the right wing media. They face constant accusations, bureaucracy, form filling, assessments, they have to cross every T and dot every I and come under the fiercest scrutiny.
    Lets see our politicians have to live by the same set of standards and remove all these sweet government “perks”

    On a final point to do with Energy Companies and switching suppliers.

    It is easy for members of parliament or anyone else for that matter who are in well paid jobs who pay for the Gas/Electricity by Direct Debit/Quarterly Bills. These people do not tend to be in arrears and can switch energy supplies at the drop of a hat.
    For someone on a low income or on benefits who is on a Pre-payment who is in arrears with their supplier it is not quite so simple.
    There are not many competitive deals for Pre-payment customers.
    People on Prepayment Meters who want to change their meters have to Pay upfront costs to have meter changed out,
    People on Prepayment meters do not tend to have a very good Credit Score, which means most energy companies will not touch them with a barge pole for fixed rate tariffs.

    People in Westminster need to get their heads out of cloud cuckoo land and start listening to people who live in the “real world” especially to those who are struggling at the bottom who do not have the luxury of “choice”

  • But if MP’s salaries where treated the same as any other normal working tax payer up and down this country, there would be no need for IPSA. or changing rules setting out what they can and can not claim for and How much.

    Expenses salary need to be removed entirely from WhiteHall .

    They should have to adhere to exactly the same set of rules as everybody else who pays tax to HMRC.

    And to do that we need to get away from expenses being paid by the Whitehall Dept, and we need to get away from MP’s employing their own family members.

    That’s my opinion anyway.

    My Brother works in a well paid self employed position, earning roughly the same as an MP actually 65k a year.

    He does have to have a 2nd home that he rents near where his main place of work is and he claims for this accommodation costs through his taxes. He also claims travel costs to and from his Normal residence and his second Residence for work, which is as it should be.
    He can also clam a meal and other subsistence costs according to the HMRC Rules
    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/eimanual/eim05231.htm

    I fail to see why MP’s can not have exactly the same set of rules applied to them under the rules of HMRC.

    of course that would mean doing away with being able to claim for travel costs for partners and children and certain other perks, but hey this is the real world that the rest of society has to live in.

    Just my opinion

  • daft ha'p'orth 4th Nov '13 - 11:31am

    @Mark Valladares
    “So, why not offer us something positive, that might be done, rather than join the likes of the Daily Telegraph in undermining our society by blindly attacking a whole group indiscriminately?”

    ‘ere you go:

    * Find out the national average payment for gas and ‘leccy. I know this information is available because <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/annual-domestic-energy-price-statistics"I found it last night.
    * Optionally, decide the type of accommodation to which an MP is actually entitled (someone mentioned one-bedroom flats upthread), but just using the national mean would be simpler anyway. The ONS says that the most common house size in England and Wales is a three-bedroom house so the mean probably hovers somewhere around sufficient for a three-bedroom house, with an average household size (more or less continuous occupation) of 2.4 people.
    * Take that average, slap on a chunk for good luck if you feel so inclined and cap the payment accordingly.

    People with what are apparently uninsulated homes run entirely on heating oil will have to find the other £3-£4k themselves. Because Lib Dems have all claimed pretty reasonable numbers (well done!) it doesn’t look as though any of them would exceed such a cap. Oh, and because I’m a reasonable person I am very happy for those who exceed this cap to be informed of insulation schemes and/or given a loan for conversion work, repayable through future energy bills. That is how it is supposed to work, right?

  • daft ha'p'orth 4th Nov '13 - 11:34am

    @Mark
    Let me unbreak that first link… https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/annual-domestic-energy-price-statistics.

    Hey ho for posting in a hurry.

  • daft ha'p'orth 4th Nov '13 - 11:47am

    Also, we could call this cap ‘the withdrawal of the spare-room energy subsidy’…

  • @Simon Shaw

    What I meant was…

    At present we have a system where MP’s claim for “staffing costs” as part of their expenses.

    The MP not only chooses who this staff member will be {quite often a family member} but they also set their salary.
    That in my opinion is wrong and is open to abuse as we have seen in the past by the previous expenses scandal.

    All staffing positions working for an MP should be open to everyone from the public and the pay should be set by and paid “directly” from the government. Not from the Mp themselves.

    Unless you think it is right that some MP’s have been known to have several members of their own family working for them at the same time on salaries between 30-50k employed as secretaries and under-sectaries and god knows what other titles they manage to come up with.
    I do not think that there are that many secretaries working outside of London who manage to attract those kind of salaries.

  • For Clarity.

    I was not suggesting that the MP pays the staffing costs out of their expenses.

    Within an MP’s expenses/Allowances/ *budgets* their is a total *budget* that an MP is allowed to spend on staffing costs.
    This is then left to the MPs discretion on how to spend this Staffing * Budget* And as we have already seen this is open to abuse.

    That is why I am saying that in order for transparency and cleaning up politics it should all be scrapped.

    MP’s should claim their expenses through their tax returns like everyone else.

    And staffing costs etc should be met and employed directly from central Government and have their pay set by government and positions be open and advertised to everybody.

    Simple, Efficient, Transparent and Fair

  • @Simon Shaw

    We are splitting hairs here yet again.

    Some employers granted might pay these expenses directly on a monthly basis upon receipt of “expenses occurred” with strict rules enforced.

    Some Employers will factor in expenses within a persons Salary.

    And some People are self employed and have to fill out a tax return to HMRC in order to get these expenses paid/credited, however you want to look at it.

    Some people are employed and get No expenses paid by the employer whatsoever i.e “travel expenses” commuting long distances between home and work.

    Considering the amount of commuting more and more people are having to do to find work and to get to and thro work, more and more people will be expected to try and reclaim these costs through their taxes, something that all employee’s are entitled to do whether employed/self employed.

    MP’s expenses should be brought in line with the same set of rules/allowances/principles that are applied to the rest of the working population be it in the private or public sector. it is really quite simple.

  • Michael Parsons 4th Nov '13 - 1:01pm

    Matt is absolutely on the ball: MP’s should operate under the same tax-and-expenses process as the rest of us. An MP is not important “in his own right” so as to justify special consideratoin, but simply because he represents (or we hope he/she represents) the interests of his electors, and not the interests of others or himself. I doubt most MP’s live by their salary anyway? it would be more interesting and useful to monitor the rest, including the “brown envelopes” , the family and trust income (all at the current low top tax rate?) and the retirement employment, which must cast doubt in many cases on their cries of poverty and neediness. I believe Sir Stafford Cripps sat shivering by a one-bar electric fire when he enforced austerity on the rest of us: how about more like that?

  • Simon Bamonte 4th Nov '13 - 1:35pm

    @Mark: So, why not offer us something positive, that might be done, rather than join the likes of the Daily Telegraph in undermining our society by blindly attacking a whole group indiscriminately?

    Maybe because your precious government, since the very start, has offered nothing positive to millions of people like me up and down the country. Sure, you lowered the tax threshold, but that means nothing to a lot of people when you take away with the other hand (bedroom tax, benefit cuts, etc.). Further, my wife is disabled and I personally work with sick and disabled people. This government is actively ruining the lives of some of the most powerless people in this country all in the name of austerity. Your precious government and MPs has done nothing but demonise them and set them up as an “other” since coming into power. Scroungers, workshy, feckless, etc. The poor and vulnerable are under constant attack from this government and the right-wing press (and I rarely see LibDems sticking up for them in the press or doing anything to temper the Tories’ language). And the LibDems, who used to speak out so loudly on behalf of people such as the disabled are often now quiet and vote through measures which are having horrible consequences on vulnerable people. Danny Alexander used to be against ATOS and against Labour’s version of the WCA, for example. But surprise! As soon as he got his cushy job in the treasury, he’s suddenly in favour of them and stopped standing up for the disabled which, to his credit, he used to do so well. Why should I offer anything positive to this government and party when it is offering nothing but debt, depression and destitution to many vulnerable people? Why should I be pleased that MPs can claim for energy costs when I see so many sick, mentally ill and disabled people having their benefits cut for the most spurious of reasons? Many of these MPs who are constantly telling us we can’t afford to help the vulnerable are often happy to take every penny of subsidies for themselves. This isn’t jealousy or class war, as someone above said. This is wanting MPs to act in the manner in which they tell US to act. If we cannot afford disability benefits or spare bedrooms for the poorest, for example, then how can we afford to subsidise food, housing and energy costs for MPs? If you can’t see this, if you can’t see how this would make someone on minimum wage feel, then you are out of touch. This so-called economic recovery is not a recovery for all.

    Also, it looks like Ed Davey isn’t actually as squeaky clean as some tribalists here like to claim: http://order-order.com/2013/11/04/re-renting-davey-claims-expenses-for-libdem-owned-officemoney-paid-to-company-of-which-wife-is-director/

  • @Matt
    I think you are getting confused between employment and self-employment. With Self-employment, yes your expenses are wholly between you and HMRC. With employment, the expectation is the employer will reimburse expenses incurred in performing the duties required according to some internal policy and then through the P11 process resolve any NI and PAYE liabilities that may accrue due to differences between HMRC guidelines and the company’s policy.

    MP’s are currently employed and IPSA sets the expense policy and approves any claims MP make under it. What is important is that the expense policy adopted by IPSA should be broadly aligned with HMRC’s policy and guidelines, with agreed exceptions for MP’s defined.

  • @Roland

    Thanks for that, you have enlightened me.

    I was told that if somebody who was “employed” and had to commute a certain distance to their place of work, which was not covered in their *salary* they could claim a tax relief for this.

    I assumed that was true and took that as face value.

    After what you said I looked at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/incometax/relief-travel.htm.

    So thanks for that, I am always happy to have things pointed out to me when I am wrong and can find out the facts. :-)

    Does not change my overall opinion though lol.

    MP’s expenses and perks are just becoming so ridiculous.
    They should be brought into line with HMRC’s policy and guidelines, with NO Exceptions for MP’s defined.

  • @Simon Shaw

    “That’s what I am saying as well, and also that MPs currently operate on the same basis as most people who incur work-related expenses”

    Except that’s not exactly true is it Simon. How many employers do you know that would allow work related expenses to cover the cost of travel for their “employees” partners and children?
    or the cost of gardening, furnishings, decorating.

    We are not talking about a like for like basis at all here.

    It is one rule for us and another entirely for them.

    In general the Government seeks to take as much away from the people as possible in the form of taxes, Even if you have a company car for instance this then becomes a taxable income.

    But if your an MP, the opposite seems to occur, the government seeks to give away as much as they can possibly get away with.

    That’s not on a like for like basis in my books

  • I do get frustrated when we hear about the need for MP’s to have Expenses in order to appeal to a wider section of society, how without this system in place, parliament would only be a place for the rich and privileged.

    That is HogWash in my opinion.

    Out of 650 MP’s, How many of those sole source of income is that of an MP’s salary?
    Most of them have 2nd jobs.
    Own businesses
    Or take on consultancy work for a Fee.
    Most of them at some point enjoy Free perks, Holiday’s etc just by sitting on select committee’s

    The Life of an MP is not that of a poor person and it never will be

    Yes there is a book of registered interests that they have to declare (Big Deal) But they still get the free family holiday or whatever perk it is they are getting for free, that the rest of us mere mortals have to pay for lol.

    There are not that many true working class MP’s who were state educated and solely working as an MP on an MP’s salary that requires expenses in order for them to be able to do their job.

    That’s just a fanciful excuse that comes out of Westminster to justify their overly generous expenses system.

  • @Matt
    The exceptions are typically ‘industry specific’. As we can see MP’s effectively have two places of work: Westminster and their constituency office, which they must maintain for up to 5 years.This dual ‘permanent workplace’ set up causes some problems with HMRC’s standard guidance, which assumes a single ‘permanent workplace’ and one or more ‘temporary workplace’ that are subject to a 24 month rule.

    So I’m happy for there to be exceptions, but for them to be well defined and published.

    As for MP’s expenses and perks becoming ridiculous, whilst there have been some highly questionable claims, I suspect that if MP’s were to claim expenses as if they were self-employed and adhered to HMRC guidelines and for such claims to be published (as at present), there would be an even greater outcry…

  • On the topic of energy costs it amazes me that MPs can be paying over £4,000 per year for their ‘second’ home. These most be some of the least energy efficient homes in the country . They need an urgent eco-audit from Donnachadh McCarthy. [email protected]

    I have seen Peter Hain’s constituency house on TV and it is about the same size as my house. How on earth can he pay so much for energy bills when one assumes he spends at least 3 or 4 night”s a week in his other home in London? Does he leave on the heating and all the lights and the TV all day and night for 365 days of the year?

    My home is not particularly energy efficient, my wife and I are retired and in the winter spend a lot of time at home, we only have one home but our energy bills are one quarter of the bills of the MPs mentioned above for one of their two homes How can this be so? Are they running cannabis farms in their spare bedrooms or something?

    If nothing else it indicates that they are out of touch = irrespective of who pays their bill. How many ordinary people would flagrantly waste energy in such a cavalier way?

  • @Simon Shaw

    “Are you happy?”

    Clearly I am not lol.

    ” I am not sure what you mean by “true working class” (I suspect it means whatever you want it to mean)”
    Actually I am not obsessed with working class, it is Westminster who constantly uses the term in the context of needing to attract more working class people from “ordinary” backgrounds to Parliament . They usually spout this waffle without any intentions of ever doing it and usually only saying it to justify the things they are up to like “expenses”

    @JohnTilley

    Agree with everything you said,

    Something fishy is going on here yet again.

    If they are genuine Energy Expenses, then these people are being totally immoral and irresponsible for running up huge usages and have no regard for the tax payers or the environment.

  • @Roland
    “if they were self-employed and adhered to HMRC guidelines and for such claims to be published (as at present), there would be an even greater outcry…”

    Is that true though? Surely if they were self employed and contracted for 100k a year (picking a figure from the air), then any allowable expenses would be offset against that 100k. There would be no on-top payment from the taxpayer, just less tax paid by the MP (which would cost the public less than the expense items).

    On a similar note, the HMRC are quite specific in saying that “You can’t claim for non-business or personal items”, therefore a lot of things that were claimed for would not be allowable under HMRC rules (e.g. TVs etc).

  • @matt
    I can understand where you are coming from and I must admit I have little sympathy for MPs – they are reaping what they have sown. If you wonder why MPs tend to come from similar backgrounds, you may wish to look at this (if you haven’t already), basically it’s all about connections.

    http://hopisen.com/2013/tony-blair-is-a-terrible-career-adviser/

  • @Chris_sh
    I talking theoretically, ie. full disclosure of expenses claimed as at present, rather than just the disclosure of totals, that HMRC are normally satisfied with. Remember you are supposed to keep detailed records of expenses, in case HMRC decide to investigate, so completing an expense form etc. is a good way of satisfying this requirement.

    The thing with being self-employed is that some things are more generous, so as a self-employed person, I would treat my home office as my normal place of work, hence all travel to both my constituency office and Westminster would be claimable, as would many other small things that employed people can’t normal claim… Yes these aren’t necessarily big ticket items, but some of the media frenzy around expenses has been on items such as the chocolate bar purchased on the train and expensed. Also you enter the realm of ‘primary purpose’, a self-employed person can drive to the supermarket do the weekly shopping and buy a ream of paper or some ink cartridges – separately receipted, they can then claim that the primary purpose of the trip was business (to get stationary) and file the receipt as evidence of primary purpose…

    The nature of the contract would have a part to play, however given the nature of the job, I would expect the contract to be services plus expenses (and VAT), so the expenses would still be additional to the renumeration for the job. But this is all fantasy, as HMRC would capture MP’s under the IR35 rules and treat them as employees…

    No the big issue is to ensure that IPSA is being seen to do a good job in policing expense claims and hence curb the worst excesses. So with respect to the energy cost claims, we need to be asking IPSA about why they approved the seemingly excessive claims.

  • @Chris_sh
    “On a similar note, the HMRC are quite specific in saying that “You can’t claim for non-business or personal items”, therefore a lot of things that were claimed for would not be allowable under HMRC rules”

    Answering another angle on this point separately – partly because I posted without checking that I had responded to all points.

    Yes this is part of the MP’s expense piece that is irritating, basically IPSA, like any employer can reimburse ‘expenses’ it see’s fit and then privately sort out the tax implications; something we the public do not have visibility of. Hence we don’t know whether the infamous ‘duck house’ expense actually resulted in the MP getting a P11 charge or not and whether IPSA repossesses such items when an MP leaves employment… So we don’t really know to what extent IPSA Westminster is just dipping their hands into the Treasury coffers to cover such non-recoverable expenses.

  • @Rankersbo
    Apologises for memory coloured by media hype rather than true memory of events. I hope people get the point I was trying to make concerning claims processing. Interestingly, if the second home was used for business purposes and the duck house was in a business area (eg. front garden) then some of the costs could of been expensed…

  • Martin Caffrey 4th Nov '13 - 10:32pm

    ‘Why do so many Liberal Democrat MPs not claim for energy costs?’

    Erm…..perhaps the forms were too complicated?

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Nov '13 - 2:13pm

    Simon Bamonte

    Your precious government and MPs has done nothing but demonise them and set them up as an “other” since coming into power. Scroungers, workshy, feckless, etc.

    Could you quote ANY Liberal Democrat MP who has used such language?

    I’ve been very critical of the way the Liberal Democrat leadership has played the coalition, the self-satisfied “Isn’t it wonderful that we are ‘in government'” line is just bound to lead to attacks like this. As I’ve said from the start, while accepting the balance in Parliament given to us by the people in the 2010 general election and confirmed as their wish by their endorsement of distortional representation in the 2011 referendum, meant we had little alternative but to agree to form this coalition, we should have made it CLEAR from the start that it is very far from our ideal, and that it does NOT mean we are in acceptance of all that comes out from the Conservative Party.

    Nevertheless, attacks like Simon Bamonte’s just are not true. It’s political knockabout, rather than serious critique. Serious critique would acknowledge what the Liberal Democrats have done to cool down the worst of the Tories, alongside perhaps suggesting they have not done enough. If whatever the Liberal Democrats do to stop the worst of the Conservatives is just dismissed and the Liberal Democrats are written up as if they hadn’t even bothered doing anything, the result will NOT be to spur them on to do more. Rather the result is what we have seen – people on the left of the Liberal Democrats dropping out of activity and membership in despair, while those on the right of the Liberal Democrats develop a bunker mentality which ends up pushing them more firmly into permanent alliance with the Tories.

    I would be more keen on getting back involved with the Liberal Democrats and doing what I can to help push the party back to what it was when I joined it if I felt there was some outside acknowledgement and support for doing it. But if when I read from anyone outside the party and sympathetic to where I stand i.e. somewhat to the left, is attacks on us which assume all of us in the party are mad keen and uncritical supporters of every aspect of the Conservative Party, I give up in despair. That is, if Simon Bamonte’s idea here is that by joining in here and making these attacks he will help cause the Liberal Democrats to move leftwards, he is wrong. It has the exact opposite effect.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Nov '13 - 2:25pm

    Simon Bamonte

    While MPs of all colours are preaching about austerity and putting on extra jumpers, while the disabled and elderly are often having to choose between eating and keeping their homes warm, this is just taking the p*ss.

    Right, so all politics and politicians are bad? That’s a line the political right is fond of. They have been using it, successfully, since the Reagan/Thatcher era to push the idea that political control of thongs is bad, so we should end it and instead push control of things into private hands. Simon, where’s your “I love Maggie” badge? You are pushing her line so well, you should be wearing one.

    If we don’t have political control, what do we have? Well, we have seen. We have banker control, we have big city executive control. How much do THEY claim in expenses and salary and bonuses? Why is it that the right-wing press has been so keen on pushing this MPs expenses issues so that one might believe, as many do, that the amount of expenses claimed by politicians is a significant factor in the public budget? It’s sad that some politicians claim a few thousand in somewhat dubious expenses claims, yes. But what is that compared to the millions that those who are now our REAL rulers take as payment and bonuses for routine admin work? Turning people against the very idea of politics by making out politicians are so much worse than anyone else, by throwing criticism at them which is not thrown at the alternative, is all part of the right-wing plan to destroy democracy and put plutocracy in its place.

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