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EX-PM URGED TO BACK DISCLOSURE OVER SECRETIVE EXPENSE SCHEME

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An SNP MP hopes to secure the support of former prime minister Gordon Brown in an effort to bring a secretive expenses scheme – worth £115,000 a year to former prime ministers’ – under the scope of the standards watchdog established in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal.

Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire, has written to the former Labour leader urging him to back calls to have claims from the Public Duties Cost Allowance regularly published – in line with other allowances now administered by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

The SNP MP is hopeful of securing Mr Brown’s backing given his previous outspoken support for transparency on taxpayer funded allowances. In February 2009 Mr Brown said the public deserved “the maximum transparency possible. I believe there is nothing that we have to hide, and we have got to get all the information out. Anything that maximises transparency is what I support…”

While MP’s expenses are properly subject to scrutiny by IPSA, claims under the Public Duties Cost Allowance are administered by the Cabinet Office and not published.

Parliamentary questions revealed that over the last year Mr Brown claimed £114,998.17 in addition to his parliamentary allowances, while Tony Blair – despite reputedly earning millions from business interests – claimed the maximum £115,000 as did Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major.

Mr Wishart said taxpayers had a right to know that claims are being used to support genuine public duties and not to subsidise former politicians as they cash-in on lucrative lecture tours and directorships.

Mr Wishart said:

“As the man in charge when the Westminster expenses scandal broke Gordon Brown supported reform of the expenses system to maximise scrutiny – we now need the same transparency on other taxpayer funded allowances.

“This little-know allowance paid to former prime ministers’ is worth as much as £115,000 a year, every year, for the rest of their lives.

People have the right to know that any funds are being used to support genuine public and charitable work and not to subsidise former politicians as they cash-in on lucrative lecture tours and directorships.

“As long as former prime ministers’ draw on taxpayer funded allowances their claims should be open to scrutiny.

“In the case of Tony Blair, who reputedly earns millions from private interests now, eyebrows will be raised that he is still able to claim the maximum level of public duties allowances. At a minimum we should at least receive a list of the public duties that have been undertaken in exchange for these claims.

“MPs’ expenses have properly been put under the microscope, and that scrutiny should extend to the public duties allowance as well.

Taxpayers deserve to know how this money is being spent and claims should be regularly published. It would seem sensible for administration and audit of this allowance to come under the umbrella of the independent parliamentary standards authority.

“The current prime minister talks about transparency but, as someone who will benefit from this scheme, will he commit to shedding light on how this little-known allowance is being spent.”

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