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MPs rent office space from parties

MPs have claimed more than £3.6 million to rent offices from political parties since the general election, it has been disclosed.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has published details of landlords for politicians' office space for the first time.

The figures show that there were 244 leases from a political party between May 2010 and March this year, compared with 477 which were not.

The average cost of leases from political parties was also slightly higher, at £14,886 as opposed to £14,156 from elsewhere.

Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said: "Our rules allow MPs to rent from a political party - but we require an extra assurance from MPs if they do so: an independent valuation that the lease represents the market rate. We are confident that this measure means taxpayers have received value for money from these leases.

"The analysis we are releasing today shows that a third of all leases are with political parties.

"As part of a broad review of accommodation support, Ipsa will consider whether, even if the individual leases are appropriate, the cumulative effect means we need to reconsider this aspect of the rules."

If the average cost of leases from political parties had been the same as those from other landlords, the bill for the taxpayer would have been £178,120 lower since the general election.

Ipsa said the difference between the cost of the leases was one of the things it would be looking at in its review.

MPs who have claimed expenses to rent office space from their political party during this parliament include Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat Cabinet colleague Danny Alexander.

Among the Tories listed are Education Secretary Michael Gove, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and International Development Secretary Justine Greening.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan and shadow consumer minister Stella Creasy also feature.

Neither David Cameron nor Labour leader Ed Miliband rent from their parties.

Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It's one thing if a local political party offers their MP and staff free use of a desk or an office, but quite another for it to be sending taxpayers an annual invoice for thousands of pounds.

"Often this is space that would not in any case be available to anyone else on commercial terms.

"The practice of MPs renting space from those who also donate money to the MP or their party should also set alarm bells ringing.

"It's effectively a back-door subsidy to political parties that is exploiting an allowance meant to assist MPs in their work serving their constituents, not boost the coffers of their re-election campaign.

"Individuals, businesses or trade unions should be free to provide office space to an MP as a donation-in-kind, but invoicing the taxpayer for that facility before then making a political donation appears to be little more than a sneaky way of channeling taxpayers' cash into party coffers."


From Belfast Telegraph