Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
MPs defend expenses claims for gas and electricity bills
FOUR Oxfordshire MPs claimed more than £1,100 for gas and electricity bills last year for their London homes.
The figure of £1,116.86 was claimed between March 2012 until April 2013 was released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
MPs argue their bills come from having to stay in London at designated second homes during the week, but the Taxpayers’ Alliance says the claims are unfair while householders are facing huge hikes in their energy bills.
The largest claim was made by Henley MP John Howell for £477.78 in electricity bills. He was paid £65,738 in the same year – the same figure as all the Oxfordshire MPs, excluding David Cameron He said: “My home is in the constituency and I claim nothing for it. In order to fulfil my duties, Parliament provides me with a flat for the central part of a week close to the House of Commons.
“It is to this flat that the bill refers in the same way electricity is included within the rate at a hotel.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood claimed £421.24 for electricity. She said: “As I said I would before I was elected, I claim a proportion of the rent and bills, including energy, for a flat near Parliament.”
Didcot and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey did not comment over the £144 he claimed.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith claimed £73.84 but decided not to submit any claims after July 2012.
He said: “Even though the rules for this are set and policed completely independently of MPs by IPSA, I fully understand public concern at a time of spiralling energy costs.
“My own claim dates from the summer of 2012, following which I decided to no longer to claim these expenses for accommodation in London.
“It is only fair to point out, the circumstances of MPs vary, and we each have to be accountable to our constituents in this as in everything else.”
Oxfordshire’s MPs come off well compared to other MPs’ claims.
The highest claim of £5,822 was made by Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi, who used the money for his constituency home.
Following the MPs’ expenses scandal, which exposed extortionate bills claimed in 2009, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was set up to set expenses rules.
Taxpayers’ Alliance campaigns director Robert Oxley said: “MPs will have associated costs when running a second home, but it is frankly ridiculous, particularly at a time when we are being urged to get the best deal out of our own household bills.
“Although Oxfordshire residents seem to be getting a better deal out of their MPs than some, the onus is on them when everyone is going through tough times.”