Bercow defends £31,400 travel and accommodation expenses

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House of Commons Speaker John Bercow claimed travel and accommodation expenses of £31,400 over the past year.

The details include more than £13,000 for an official trip to Australia with an aide, and almost £1,000 for a car journey from Halifax to London.

The Speaker was invited to address foreign parliaments, and visited UK schools and organisations to boost awareness of Parliament.

A spokesman for Mr Bercow said he was "always mindful of costs".

But Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands said MPs "should be setting a much better example".

And the Taxpayers Alliance said the sums incurred were "obscene".

Fresh details of Mr Bercow's individual receipts for travel and accommodation over the past three years have been published in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.

Between April 2014 and April 2015, he claimed more than £31,000 in travel and accommodation expenses.

Of these, the largest claim was for an official trip to Australia in September 2014, where he addressed the country's Parliament. Mr Bercow claimed £13,331.88 for the seven-day visit.

'Timing requirements'

The total included the cost of flights, travel to and from the airport, and "subsistence and visas" for him and a member of staff.

The Speaker also claimed £983.40 for a one-way drive from Halifax to London on 6 November 2014, for a parliamentary outreach event which seeks to spread awareness of and encourage engagement with Parliament.

Mr Bercow's "wait and return" car journey from the Commons to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, which is about 0.8 miles away, on 3 March 2015 cost £126.72.

He also submitted a claim for £138 for a return drive from the Commons to Battersea, London, where he and an aide attended an Education Outreach event on 11 September last year.

Details of Mr Bercow's expenses claims disclosed by PA's FoI request:

  • £524 for an official car to travel to Canterbury to see Archbishop Justin Welby enthroned in March 2013
  • £172 for a drive to Carlton House Terrace, which is 0.7 miles from the Houses of Parliament, to open a conference on alternative and augmentative communication
  • £168 for a one-way car journey from King's Cross station in London to Speaker's House after a day trip to Leeds in July 2013
  • £367 for a drive to the University of Bedfordshire to deliver a lecture on reforming Parliament to ensure it was "a credible institution"
  • £44 in long distance calls from Mr Bercow's room during a visit to Vienna in 2013
  • £158 for a car journey to Baroness Thatcher's funeral at St Paul's cathedral, 1.8 miles from the Commons, in April 2013

Referring to the story, Mr Hands wrote on Twitter: "All MPs should be setting a much better example than this, when it comes to spending public money."

A spokesman for the Speaker said: "One of the Speaker's duties is to represent parliament at home and abroad. The Speaker attends funerals and memorials for former parliamentarians as both a mark of respect and as a representative of his parliamentary colleagues."

He added: "The Speaker is committed to encouraging public engagement with Parliament and regularly visits universities, charities and other organisations around the UK to explain the work of the House of Commons.

"The Speaker is always mindful of costs, and travels standard class in the UK and when away from home, stays in hotels that offer value for money.

"In some instances a car service is required to facilitate timing requirements. In line with the Speaker's commitment to greater transparency details of these costs have been published on a quarterly basis since 2013."

Itemised details of the Speaker's travel and accommodation claims are published every quarter on Parliament's website. Between 2010 and 2013, Mr Bercow's claims totalled £96,000.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which oversees MPs' expenses, said it does not authorise Mr Bercow's claims in respect of his duties as Speaker, only those relating to his constituency business as MP for Buckingham.

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