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SNP MP Angus MacNeil slams watchdog's stance on £250-a-night hotel bills

Published 25/02/2016

MP Angus MacNeil has repaid hundreds of pounds of expenses
MP Angus MacNeil has repaid hundreds of pounds of expenses

An SNP MP has lashed out at the expenses watchdog after it refused to fund £250-a-night hotel bills.

Angus MacNeil insisted the rates had been the cheapest available and complained that he was being forced to "subsidise" his work by repaying nearly £900.

The politician used his official credit card to book the rooms in May and June last year.

Under Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) rules, the maximum cost that can be covered is £150 per night in London, and £120 elsewhere in the UK.

But a two-night stay in the capital for Mr MacNeil, MP for Na H-Eileanan An Iar and chairman of the Energy Select Committee, was £513.60 in May.

The same amount was charged to his card for another two nights later that month.

In June a two-night stay in London cost £405.60, and there was a £770.40 bill for three nights.

One night at a hotel outside the capital was £35 over the limit.

Mr MacNeil appealed against Ipsa's refusal to underwrite £888.20 of the spending, arguing: "Despite best efforts unable to secure room within budget.

"This is legitimate cost hotel accommodation booked at short notice owing to parliamentary business."

But the watchdog's compliance officer, Peter Davis, agreed that the expenses rules had been breached.

"The Scheme is clear and unequivocal in stating that accommodation expenditure may only be claimed for hotel accommodation up to a maximum cost of £150 per night in the London Area, or £120 elsewhere in the United Kingdom," Mr Davis said. "Ipsa may use their discretion to approve claims above the daily rates if the MP contacts them at the time the costs are incurred and demonstrates that legitimate efforts have been made to locate a hotel.

"The compliance officer cannot find any record of this having taken place."

He added: "The compliance officer therefore concludes that Ipsa were correct in recovering £888.20, the amount the claims exceeded the daily hotel rate."

Official credit card bills are automatically paid by Ipsa, but a spokesman confirmed that the money had been recouped from Mr MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil said: "The accommodation was booked by the parliamentary travel office as the lowest priced accommodation they could find.

"The upshot is I have now paid £900 from my own pocket subsidising Ipsa to do an MP job in London."

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