Politicians can bill the taxpayer for food and refreshments for festive events
MPs have been told they can host Christmas parties at taxpayers’ expense.
New rules state they can ‘claim the cost of food and refreshments for an office festive event’ or for a gathering in their constituencies.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is also approving spending on ‘festive decorations for their office’ and on sending cards to local residents.
But it has warned MPs that they cannot spend public money on alcohol.
And it is urging them to make sure their claims for get-togethers ‘represent value for money, especially in the current economic climate’.
The pay body’s recommendations come after it emerged that the total bill for MPs’ allowances rose to £138.6million last year as more staff were taken on to handle casework.
The guidance was published by Ipsa last week to answer ‘frequently asked questions about the use of budgets for celebrations to support MPs and their staff in conducting their parliamentary activities during the festive season’.
It stated: ‘MPs can claim the costs of food and refreshments for an office festive event under the discretion allowed as “hospitality”.
‘As with all claims, value for money should be considered and all claims will be published in the usual manner. No claims are allowed for alcohol.’
In addition they can claim back the cost of refreshments for a ‘festive event or gathering within the constituency’ but it must be ‘within a parliamentary context’ and not ‘purely a social event’.
MPs are told they can use their annual office costs budget – £31,620 for those in London seats and £28,570 for those outside the capital – to ‘claim the cost of festive decorations for their office’. But they can’t use their expenses to pay for outdoor displays.
They can claim the cost of printing and posting celebratory cards but are advised ‘they should not be sent to large groups or all constituents as there is a risk this may not represent value for money and could be considered self-promotional’.
Ipsa stated: ‘There is discretion within budgets for some items, but we would remind MPs that claims should represent value for money, especially in the current economic climate, must be expressly parliamentary in nature and should not be party-political, campaigning, or self-promotional.’