MPs told they can claim Christmas party food and drink on expenses for first time

The news that taxpayers could be footing the bill for festive gatherings comes as the cost of living crisis continues to grip millions across the UK

For the first time ever, Members of Parliament will be able to claim Christmas party items for staff gatherings on their expenses. This is according to guidance from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

MPs will be able to claim on items such as food and drink for staff Christmas parties this year. However, they will be unable to claim on alcoholic drinks. The information from Ipsa comes as part of answers to frequently asked questions about what MPscan claim on their expenses.

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Other items that taxpayers will foot the bill for include Christmas decorations such as tinsel and Christmas trees. Ipsa has also reminded MPsthat their claims “should represent value for money, especially in the current economic climate.”

Ipsa is the watchdog for MPsexpenses and through their website they have regularly updated guidelines and information on what can be claimed on expenses. They say that all claims must be for parliamentary purposes and in compliance with the rules of the Scheme of MPs’ Staffing and Business Costs.

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    Also on the list of items acceptable to claim on according to Ipsa is accommodation - most MPsare required to live in two locations. Another item regularly seen on expenses is travel. MPs, their staff, and their families are funded for travel between their constituency and London.

    However, Ipsa say that MPsare not funded for commutes to or from work or trips to party conferences. The Ipsa site reads: “We don’t fund travel for MPs to commute between their accommodation and work in either their constituency or London and we don’t fund travel for party political purposes such as attending the annual party conferences or campaigning.”

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    Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, tweeted in response to the news saying that “no-one she knows will use it.” The MP added that she will throw a party for her staff at her home and all food and drink will be paid for by her.

    She said:  “Just want to say no one asked for this, no one I know will use it. The guidance wasn’t made by MPs and yet we will be pilloried for it. I think it’s really irresponsible to issue this guidance as if MPs have been clamouring for it when I’ve literally never heard anyone do that.

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    “I have a tree in my office we dust off every year and decorations (tinsel and baubles from Wilkos) that I paid for. We have home made decorations made by kids in a local school and some knitted fairy lights garland made by a lovely local knitting group (again which I paid for).

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    “I will throw a Christmas party for my staff, it will be in my home where I will cook and pay for all of the food and drink. Once again I reiterate that there was no clamour for this from MPs and it’s stupid.”