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CROSS PARTY APPEAL OVER SECRETIVE WESTMINSTER EXPENSE SCHEME

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An MP hopes to secure cross-party support in an effort to bring a secretive Westminster 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 SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, has tabled an EDM in Westminster urging MPs’ 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).

While MPs’ 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 former Prime Minister Gordon 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 long as former prime ministers’ draw on taxpayer funded allowances their claims should be open to scrutiny. 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.

“In the case of Gordon Brown, given his poor participation levels in parliament since losing the election, eyebrows will be raised that he is claiming both parliamentary and public duties allowances.

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

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

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