Local MPs claimed more than £3k each for heating bills

Friday 8th November 2013 12:00 am

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TWO local Conservative MPs have come in for criticism after they claimed large amounts of money from taxpayers for energy bills.

Mel Stride, MP for Central Devon, claimed £3,223.64 for gas and electricity in the financial year 2012-13 - the seventh highest such claim – and East Devon MP Hugo Swire, who lives locally, claimed £3,198.61 for gas and oil – the eighth highest claim.

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish claimed just £151, while 309 MPs did not make any energy bill claims on their second home.

The figures were revealed following an investigation by the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

The highest claim was by Nadhim Zahawi. Taxpayers forked out £5,822.27 to heat and power his sprawling property in Stratford-on-Avon.

Mr Stride claimed £1,123.90 for electricity in April 2012 and a further £741.56 three months later.

He claimed for a gas bill of £859 in January, following one for just under £500 in the previous October.

The remainder of the £3,223.64 claim was from a water bill for £107.90 from October 2012.

The claims by the MPs have been roundly condemned.

Clare Welton, of Fuel Poverty Action, said: "When the Government's only response to millions of people not being able to afford their fuel bills is to tell us to change supplier or wear a jumper, it is outrageous to see MPs claiming hefty amounts of taxpayer money to pay for their own bills.

"It is little wonder that many MPs have done nothing to tackle fuel poverty in this country when they are immune from the price hikes by the profit-hungry Big Six energy companies.

"Thousands of people will die this winter in cold homes but we know the MPs will be keeping nice and warm in their first and second homes."

Hundreds of MPs – including Ed Miliband – claimed a total of £200,000 on expenses to pay their energy bills.

Politicians have claimed up to £6,000 each for gas and electricity in their second homes, leaving hard-pressed taxpayers to pick up the bill.

Some 340 MPs, some of them multi-millionaires, have taken advantage of the perk at a time when many people are struggling to pay rising utility bills.

Even Labour leader Mr Miliband, who has attacked the Government over spiralling costs, claimed £403.59 for fuel at his constituency home in Doncaster.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claimed £254.29 for electricity and gas in his Sheffield constituency home, but David Cameron and George Osborne did not take advantage of the privilege.

All the claims are within parliamentary rules, which allow MPs to claim up to £20,100 in expenses for second homes – having been granted a £100 rise in April.

But they come at a time of heightened tensions over rising fuel bills.

The average dual fuel bill is set to hit £1,400 this winter as four of the Big Six energy firms – British Gas, nPower, Scottish Power and SSE – introduce inflation-busting price hikes of an average of 9.1 per cent.

Bills of more than £1,000 were submitted by 41 MPs, while another 78 made claims for at least £500 for their second homes.

The bills were revealed in documents filed to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority between April 2012 and March 2013. MPs claimed £23million in personal expenses over this period.

Under new rules since 2010, MPs are allowed to make claims on their second homes for gas and electricity, as well as rent, hotel stays, council tax, service charges and their telephone and internet.

But campaigners said constituents would feel "outraged" that well-off MPs were claiming for their fuel bills when voters are struggling.

Alan Quick

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