Expenses

The scandals over MPs’ expenses have been undermining trust in politics. I understand the public’s anger and frustration about how the House of Commons is dragging its feet on getting the expenses regime cleaned up, and how those who flout the rules seem to get away with it. In Parliament I have been raising the concerns I have about the expenses regime for more than two years, but sadly not all MPs have shared these concerns and seen the need for radical changes. I hope this page answers some of the questions you may have, but do feel free to contact me if there is anything else you would like to know.

Latest News: Clean bill of health for Jo’s expenses

I welcome the publication of Sir Thomas Legg’s report and I am pleased that he has found that my expenses are all in order, however the important thing now is to press on and reform the expenses system.

The abuses of MPs’ expenses were uncovered months ago. Instead of having review after review, the House of Commons must take action now to clean up the system. Sir Christopher Kelly has made an excellent set of recommendations for reform, and they should be implemented in full, as soon as possible, so that we can begin to restore faith in our political institutions.

Follow the link below for more information on the Legg review and my reaction:

04/02/2010 Clean bill of health for Jo’s expenses

View Jo’s expenses

Jo’s expenses as published voluntarily since April 2008:

From May 2010 onwards, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority took over the administration of MPs’ expenses. They routinely publish all MPs’ expenses on their website in a searchable database, which is available here:

www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk

Jo’s expenses as published by the House of Commons:

Searchable database of MP’s expenses from 2008/09 onwards

You can see information about years 2005/6, 2006/7 and 2007/8 by clicking the link below (Expenses can be found on the right hand side grouped under '2004-2009' and '2010 onwards'):

They Work For You website – Jo Swinson MP

Some explanatory notes on the TheyWorkForYou expenses table (as published by the House of Commons authorities): “Incidential Expenses Provision” is basically the office costs allowance; the Misc travel figure in 2007/8 refers to parking charges at the airport, which in 2006/7 the House authorities included in the “car” heading; staffing and travel totals for 2005/6 are lower because they don’t relate to a full year, while fewer months of office and accommodation costs were balanced out by start-up costs – furniture and equipment that only needs to be bought once; from June 2007 my accommodation costs went up because my flatmate moved to New Zealand (nothing personal!) and so I went from sharing the costs of a two bedroom flat to meeting the full costs of a one bedroom flat.

Petty Cash

There are two petty cash tins in my offices – one in Bishopbriggs and one in Westminster – which my staff use for small office purchases such as buying newspapers, milk, postage stamps, or small items of stationery. In my first term in Parliament (2005 – 2010) there was an arrangement whereby the House of Commons transferred £50 per month from office costs allowance into an office bank account, from which my staff could withdraw cash. These £50 payments are shown on my published expenses above, under office costs. I have published statements below which show how this money has been spent for each month.

After the General Election in May 2010, the system of MPs’ expenses was taken over by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), and these arrangements were changed. The money remaining in the petty cash account was withdrawn and used as petty cash – I will continue publishing how this has been used until the cash has all been spent. After that point, all cash payments will be made by me, then receipts submitted to IPSA for reimbursed. These will appear under office costs as my expenses are published going forward.

Speaking in Parliament

Jo has spoken out in favour of transparency and accountability of MPs’ expenses on many occasions in Parliament. You can watch these contributions on video by going to the Westminster videos tab on the left-hand panel, and read the text of the exchanges using the links below.

30 Apr 09 – Jo supports increased transparency in debate on MPs expenses

2 Feb 09 – Jo calls for transparency on expenses and for the public to have the right to trigger a by-election if unhappy with their MP

22 Jan 09 – Jo makes a speech about MPs’ expenses

22 Jan 09 – Jo challenges Harriet Harman to rule out any future attempts to keep MPs’ expenses secret

22 Jan 09 – Jo asks for clarity on when we can expect MPs’ expenses to be published

13 Nov 08 – Jo questions Harriet Harman on the delay in publishing MPs’ expenses

16 Jul 08 – Jo points out the damage to democracy caused by the House of Commons refusing to reform MPs’ expenses

18 May 07 – Jo praises the Scottish Parliament system where all MSP expenses are published in detail as a matter of course

28 Mar 07 – Jo opposes extending MPs’ allowances

Written Parliamentary Questions

4 Mar 09 – Jo asks whether the Commons has considered implementing an expenses system with as much transparency as the Scottish Parliament

26 Feb 09 – Jo asks what discussions the Commons has had with devolved administrations about their expenses publication systems

3 Feb 09 – Jo asks about the delay to the publication of MPs’ expenses

28 Jan 09 – Jo asks when MPs’ expenses will be published

20 Nov 08 – Jo asks on what date MPs’ expenses will be published (this was due to be in “autumn 2008″)

Submissions to Reviews of MPs’ expenses

5 Jun 09 – Jo’s submission to Sir Christopher Kelly’s review of MPs’ expenses

12 Sept 08 – Jo’s submission to the Leader of the House on the consultation paper ‘Audit and Assurance of MPs’ Allowances’

6 Mar 08 – Jo’s submission to the Members Estimate Committee review of MPs’ expenses

7 Dec 06 – Jo’s submission to the Senior Salaries Review Board consultation on MPs’ expenses

Related News Stories on MPs’ Expenses

Tue 9 February 2010: Say sorry over expenses slur, insists ex-MP (Kirkintilloch Herald)

Fri 6 Nov 2009: Kelly report must be accepted in full

Sun 30 Aug 2009: MP’s expenses: ‘Angels’ who support curbs (Daily Telegraph)

Fri 12 June 2009: “Citizens must be the judge of Parliament” – Swinson

Thu 11 June 2009: Telegraph ‘didn’t tell any lies but was selective in its facts’

Thu 28 May 2009: Bar the gates. No summer holiday before the overhaul.

Sat 23 May 2009: The Herald gives scandal ratings to MPs’ expense claims

Fri 22 May 2009: Brown is forced to defend pair on expenses

Thu 21 May 2009: Jo responds to Daily Telegraph allegations

Fri 1 May 2009: Jo publishes expenses as MPs vote on reforms

Wed 15 Apr 2009: Expense abuses are one symptom of a bankrupt political culture. Britain deserves real change

Wed 4 Feb 2009: Jo Swinson champions “people power”

Wed 21 Jan 2009: Government U-turn on expenses

Sat 17 Jan 2009: Expenses move risks further tarnishing Parliament

Mon 7 Jul 2008: Jo welcomes Lib Dem commitment on expenses

Thu 3 July 2008: Vote of MPs’ salary and expenses – Jo’s view

Transparency

Transparency must be a fundamental principle when it comes to MPs’ expenses. The public have a right to know where their money is going. The House of Commons only publishes spending under broad categories, which in my view is not good enough. So last year I started publishing details of my expense claims every quarter. You’ll find links to each quarter, and to information about previous years, at the bottom of this page.

Although the Information Commissioner had ruled that the House of Commons would have to publish all MPs’ expenses in detail, in January 2009 the Government tried to introduce emergency legislation to prevent this. By exempting MPs from the Freedom of Information legislation they hoped to keep all MPs’ expenses secret. I was appalled, and set about organising a campaign to stop this, including tabling a Commons motion opposing the Government’s plans, which 90 MPs supported.

Jo’s Parliamentary motion against secrecy of MPs’ expenses

Helped by mass movements on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, thousands of people from across the UK contacted their MPs urging them to sign my motion. At the last minute, the Government backed down, and so this summer MPs’ expenses will finally be published in full detail.

Bid to shame MPs over expenses cover-up (Daily Mail, 20 Jan 09)

Yes, democracy works (The Guardian, 22 Jan 09)

Article by Jo Swinson on the MPs’ expenses row (Scottish Mail on Sunday, 25 Jan 09)

MPs’ salary

One of the most common questions I get asked when I go and speak to local primary schools is how much MPs earn – you can always count on children to be direct! Of course the salary of MPs is a matter of public knowledge; this year it is £64,766. Thankfully the practice of MPs voting on their own salaries has been ditched, and an independent body (Senior Salaries Review Board) now makes recommendations about cost of living increases to MPs’ salaries. There are no incremental pay-grade increases for MPs; all MPs earn the same salary apart from Government Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, and Select Committee Chairmen. The Senior Salaries Review Board considers the job of an MP to be comparable to a secondary school headteacher or a police chief superintendent, both of whom as an average are paid more than an MP.

MPs’ expenses

Media coverage often lumps MPs’ expenses along with their salary, suggesting the total amount is paid to the MP and ends up acting as a salary top-up. This is not the case, and in fact what is included in the term “MPs’ expenses” is staff salaries, office running costs, travel between the constituency and Westminster and accommodation costs for staying during the week in London. For each item I buy I submit a claim form and receipt which is scrutinised by Parliament’s civil servants before they pay the invoice directly, or reimburse the cost already paid. The expenses are for the specific purpose of enabling the MP to serve their 80,000 or so constituents. These expenses should only reimburse actual costs incurred as a consequence of doing the job of Member of Parliament. Those MPs who have acted otherwise bring the system into disrepute, and the sooner the system is reformed the better.

Staffing budget

Between my Bishopbriggs and Westminster offices, I employ three full-time and two part-time staff, all of whom have standard House of Commons contracts of employment, and none of whom are related to me. I advertise all vacancies on this website, on www.w4mp.org and often on other websites such as local University careers service sites. After shortlisting, I interview and appoint on the basis of who has best demonstrated the criteria asked for in the job description. Employing these members of staff enables me to respond promptly to the dozens of people who write, email or call the office every day, whether with a problem they would like my assistance with, or a policy issue or piece of legislation they are concerned about. The salary and national insurance costs included in my staffing total are paid directly from the House of Commons authorities to my staff. Staff is by far the biggest portion of my expenses, but absolutely essential to enable me to take up cases on behalf of constituents. Local people who have been in contact with my staff frequently comment on how helpful they have found them.

Office costs

Every MP is provided with office space in Parliament, but the running costs of the constituency office are included in the expenses figures. This includes rent and rates, telephone bills, heating, electricity, postage, stationery and IT equipment.

Travel costs

Living 400 miles from Westminster means I spend quite a lot of time travelling. When Parliament is sitting I travel to London and back each week. Due to time pressures I tended to fly most often, but having signed up to the 10:10 campaign to cut my carbon emissions I am making a concerted effort to take the train, either daytime or overnight on the Caledonian Sleeper. So far this is proving successful and I have managed not to fly on my Westminster commute since July 2009.

Accommodation costs

During the week in London, I stay overnight in a one-bedroom rented flat about 15 minutes’ walk from Parliament, which still sits until 10pm two nights each week. The rental cost and associated utility bills and council tax for this flat are what make up the Additional Costs Allowance expenses figure. The House of Commons authorities have a copy of my lease agreement, which they had to agree to before I signed it. Compared to accommodation costs in East Dunbartonshire, London property prices came as quite a shock! But despite the Lilliputian proportions of the flat, the rent is the market rate. Some MPs have lower accommodation costs because instead of renting they claim mortgage interest payments on property they own. Although this is within the rules, I deliberately chose to rent rather than buy because I don’t think MPs should make a capital gain from taxpayers’ money in this way. I would like to see a system ultimately where instead of paying out this money in mortgage interest to MPs or rental payments to landlords, the House of Commons owned properties in London for MPs to stay overnight in. The taxpayer would therefore benefit from the capital gain.

For more general information about Parliamentary allowances, and the rules of claiming them you can visit:

http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/members-allowances/

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