The headline in The Daily Telegraph (May 10) put it in a nutshell: “MPs claim expenses for adult children – Politicians top-up home allowances under rule originally intended for young families”.
It went on to name the MP for Devizes, Claire Perry, as one of the MPs who “are boosting their expenses by claiming for adult children ‘dependent’ upon them”.
The Daily Telegraph report by political correspondent Anna Mikhailova and Charles Young, continued: “Rules introduced in 2017 allow MPs to claim additional second home expenses of up to £5,450 per child.”
“The rule was originally intended to help MPs with children rent bigger homes but The Telegraph has discovered, following changes to the regulations, several are using the allowance for adult children in their 20s.”
“Claire Perry, an energy minister who earns £111,148 a year, claimed £9,846 on top of her £22,760 standard allowance by citing her three children aged 17, 19 and 22. Mrs Perry said: “All claims are made completely in accordance with the IPSA rules”.”
IPSA is the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – set up in response to the 2009 expenses scandal – which was exclusively uncovered by The Daily Telegraph.
Five other MPs have been identified as claiming allowances for adult children. The following day (May 11) the newspaper quoted Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the parliamentary standards committee. He said that while MPs are operating within the rules: “One despairs that after 10 years MPs have not learnt the fundamental ethical lessons of the 2009 scandal over expenses.”
The 2009 expenses scandal is often characterised by the MP who claimed public money to buy a ‘duck house’ for his pond. The Matt pocket cartoon in The Telegraph featured two ducks swimming amiably around their duck house, one saying to other: “I’m claiming there are still a dozen eggs living at home.”
A food bank in Whitehall?
It was not a comfortable few days for Mrs Perry as the food bank culture came to Whitehall. The Sunday Times reported that cleaning staff at her ministry (the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) were not being paid properly – or, in some cases, not at all – by the new contractor.
‘Victims of payroll blunders’ were left so short of cash they could not afford fares to get to work – or, in several cases, food. An email was sent round the ministry asking people ‘to donate food at four trop-off points set up in the ministry’.
The services company ISS World, who took over the cleaning contract on 1 March 2019, did not respond to the Sunday Times’ requests for comment.