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Monday, 30 November 2009

The biggest story to hit the newspapers this year...

The biggest story to hit the newspapers this year has been, without a doubt, the revelations about MPs’ expenses.

In an effort to draw a line under the scandal, Sir Christopher Kelly and the Committee for Standards in Public Life published a report in early November that makes recommendations on what MPs should and should not be allowed to claim.

MPs' Expenses and Allowances: Supporting Parliament, safeguarding the taxpayer is a substantial document – 144 pages – so few people, other than journalists, will wade through it in its entirety.

It is interesting to see what the Kelly report has to say about hotel expenses.
Under the old system, MPs were allowed to claim up to £24,222 every year to cover their hotel bills when they were away from their principal residence. In 2007-08, Parliament sat for 165 days. That means MPs could spend £146.80 a night on a hotel. At rack rate, that would get you a night at the Ramada Ealing.

Interim measures introduced when the scandal broke imposed a cap on hotel bills of £1,250 per month, reducing the average per day to a shade over £90. If MPs were paying rack, this would probably stretch to a Travelodge in London.

So what will the Kelly report mean for MPs who stay in hotels?
The Kelly Report suggests that an independent regulator set an upper limit for overnight hotel costs, with a hint that £120 per night (plus VAT) might be a suitable upper threshold. That budget might just stretch to a Novotel.

But of course, MPs do not need to stay in a hotel every night of the parliamentary year and they will pay nowhere near rack rate. Taking both into consideration, MPs could probably stay in any hotel they choose in London. And with five-star hotels looking a little empty these days, MPs might be staying in some very nice places indeed.

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