By Martin Williams: MPs have claimed more than £1m on expenses to pay energy bills in their second homes over the last six years, openDemocracy has revealed.
Taxpayers were charged £1,093,472.06 between April 2017 and September 2022, despite MPs’ wages continuing to rise.
Former health secretary Matt Hancock – who pocketed more than £300,000 for his stint on I’m a Celebrity – claimed the third highest amount, charging taxpayers £12,700. And defence secretary Ben Wallace claimed almost £9,700
The figures are expected to increase further as MPs submit more claims for the current financial year. Claims for the winter months, when the cost of gas and electricity hit record highs, have yet to be logged, meaning taxpayers are likely to take an even bigger hit.
Spiralling energy prices have worsened the UK’s cost of living crisis and pushed families into poverty. Campaigners and opposition politicians have called on the government to provide extra support for households and introduce a windfall tax on energy giants, who have raked in huge profits.
Former prime minister Liz Truss – who blocked a windfall tax, saying she didn’t “believe” in the idea – put almost £4,200 of energy bills on her expenses during the period.
Under the rules, MPs living outside London are allowed to claim up to £25,000 a year to pay for a second home in the capital. Authorities say this is to avoid people being “put off” the idea of being a politician, and to “ensure all MPs can fulfil their parliamentary duties regardless of how far their constituency is from London”.
MPs based in London are not allowed to claim for accommodation costs because they already live within an easy commute to the House of Commons.
But we found taxpayers are still funding second homes for MPs who live just a short journey away.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “Politicians are becoming increasingly disconnected from the public experience of the cost of living crisis.
“While research for the Warm This Winter campaign found that nine million UK adults spent this Christmas in cold damp homes, politicians enjoyed taxpayer-funded warmth in their second homes.”
Politicians are becoming increasingly disconnected from the public experience of the cost of living crisis.
In one case, Tory MP Bim Afolami has claimed huge sums for a second home in London, despite owning a Grade II listed house “not far from Harpenden” – a commuter town just 26 minutes train ride from London St Pancras.
Last year alone, the Eton-educated MP claimed almost £33,000 on expenses for his rent, along with a £1,044 energy bill.
Afolami, who previously served as vice chair of the Conservative Party, has spoken about commuting “on the Harpenden trains” and has described the journey as “not merely inconvenient but, for many, unbearable”.
His constituency of Harpenden and Hitchen is just outside the “London area” as defined by Westminster authorities, even though other constituencies that are not administratively within Greater London – including some in Hertfordshire, Berkshire and Surrey – are still included.
This means Afolami is entitled to a £25,000 budget for a second home.
He told openDemocracy: “I live over 30 minutes from Harpenden,” adding: “The reason that MPs have flats in London is because of the considerable number of late votes and late engagements that often go until extremely late in the evening.”
In another case, the MP for Crawley also claimed expenses for rent and energy bills, even though Crawley station is a 43-minute train journey to London Victoria. Henry Smith has claimed for rent, council tax and energy bills in recent years.
Out of the ten MPs who claimed the most in the last six years, seven were Conservatives. But records suggest that Labour’s Liam Byrne has the highest individual total, with almost £17,000 worth of claims currently logged.
However, the MP said: “These figures are wrong because they do not reflect the significant rebate of well over £1,000 owed by the energy company to IPSA by the end of the financial year. As such, it is not true to say Mr Byrne has the highest energy claims.”
Conservative Simon Hoare, the MP for North Dorset, has also logged more than £15,800 of claims for energy costs during the period.
Earlier this month, IPSA confirmed that MPs would get another pay rise in April, bringing their wages up to £86,584.
In reality, many MPs earn far more than this, as they are often paid extra for taking on additional roles like being a minister or chairing a select committee.
And openDemocracy has previously revealed how MPs have also raked in millions of pounds from second jobs. Boris Johnson alone has declared almost £5m of earnings since he was forced out of Number 10 last summer but remained sitting as a backbench MP.