Top British MPs used public purse to claim thousands for energy bills after war outbreak

UK defence chief Ben Wallace and energy ministers submitted large oil and gas expenses after Ukraine conflict escalated energy crisis

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Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tops a list of high-profile politicians who have made use of thousands of pounds in taxpayers' money to help pay for energy bills since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Mr Wallace and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly are among leading UK politicians who have submitted expense claims for heating bills since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year. They are entitled to do so, however, many MPs chose not to submit claims.

The war has escalated the global energy crisis, after the wholesale cost of gas had already increased by 50 per cent in 2021, sending fuel prices rocketing.

Using the latest available data from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), claims made for gas and electricity by 40 leading politicians totalled more than £30,200 ($37,055) for the second financial quarter of last year. Only expense claims submitted to Ipsa covering up to July last year have been published publicly.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is among leading politicians who have submitted expense claims for heating bills since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. PA

The National examined the cases of 77 high-profile MPs who are eligible to submit claims. Of them, nine claimed more than £1,000 while 11 claimed between £500 and £1,000 for fuel bills.

They include members of the cabinet, prominent members of the opposition parties and politicians who sit on key energy committees.

Top cabinet members claiming significant costs for fuel in their second homes included Mr Wallace, who claimed £3,790, and Mr Cleverly who claimed £663 before he was made Foreign Secretary. Neither have responded to a request to comment on the claims.

Claims for energy costs by three government ministers within the Business department, which covers energy, totalled £1,424. They are Nusrat Ghani, who submitted £836, Graham Stuart, who claimed £451.49, and George Freeman, who claimed £136.44.

All of them had voted against a windfall tax on energy firms.

Only politicians who have constituencies outside London are allowed to claim energy bills for their second homes. Those with grace and favour accommodation, such as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Mr Cleverley, are also barred — however, they can claim energy costs for their constituency offices.

Of the politicians The National examined, 13 claimed for both their second home and constituency office, 33 for their second home, 27 for their office and 30 made no claims at all.

Those who chose not to make a claim included former prime ministers Theresa May, Liz Truss and Boris Johnson and cabinet ministers Steve Barclay, Penny Mordaunt, Grant Shapps, Oliver Dowden and Dominic Raab.

Duncan Simpson, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said the figures claimed for second homes would raise concerns with the public.

"With energy prices staying high and the tax burden reaching record levels, taxpayers will be concerned that their hard-earned cash is being used to insulate MPs from the same pressures that they have to face,” he said.

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack claimed £1,627 for both his second home and office, Home Secretary Suella Braverman submitted £378 for her home and office, while Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove claimed £634 for his office, as did Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper, who claimed £563. Labour MP Kim Leadbeater also claimed only for office fuel costs.

“'These expenses are entirely legitimate and claimed in compliance with the rules of Ipsa, which publishes them in the interests of transparency and accountability," a spokesman for Alister Jack said. "MPs are entitled to claim a range of expenses to enable them to do their job.”

Those who chose not to make a claim include former prime ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson. AFP

Mr Harper's representative said: “These claims refer to energy bills for the constituency office rather than any personal residence.

"Any effective constituency MP requires a fully staffed and dedicated constituency office to assist their constituents with casework and other enquiries.”

Ms Leadbeater said: "This claim refers solely to my constituency office. The cost of running an MP’s office is included in the budget provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

"Claims are submitted in the normal way for heating and other energy costs so my staff can do their work on behalf of my constituents. As with every other office in the UK, the cost of energy has increased as a result."

Eight out of 11 of the all-party energy select committee claimed back their utility bills, totalling £7,282.

One of the top claims was for £2,667.65 by committee member Mark Jenkinson, which included £2,306.20 for his office fuel costs in Workington, in the north of England.

"You want to run an office with no utilities? You lunatics," he responded to The National.

Mark Jenkinson claimed £2,306.20 for his office fuel costs. 'You want to run an office with no utilities? You lunatics,' he told The National. PA

Committee chairman Darren Jones claimed £328 for his flat’s heating bills, and Alex Stafford £1,070.

Meanwhile, former Labour leader and current shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband claimed £379 for his second-home fuel costs and leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey claimed £68 for his office.

Many of those who claimed the highest amounts either failed to enter a vote or voted against proposals for a windfall tax on energy firms, which opposition parties claimed would have saved each UK household £600 a year on bills.

The revelations come as millions in the UK have faced staggering rises in energy bills. National Energy Action estimates that 6.7 million UK households are in fuel poverty.

The average energy bill for the whole of last year was £2,500 (£208 a month), double that of 2021.

Last week, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury James Cartlidge unveiled a new plan to the UK Parliament to help businesses struggling with soaring energy costs, claiming the present path was "unsustainable".

“It is not sustainable for the Exchequer to continue to support large numbers of businesses at the current level," he told MPs.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt - in pictures

“No responsible, serious government anywhere in the world can permanently shield businesses from this energy price shock.”

Mr Cartlidge and Chancellor of Exchequer Jeremy Hunt are both among MPs who have submitted claims for energy bills.

Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, told The National that the public were suffering while politicians were using taxpayers' money to fund their own bills.

"Politicians are becoming increasingly disconnected from the public experience of the cost-of-living crisis,” he said.

"While research for the Warm This Winter campaign found that 9 million UK adults spent Christmas in cold, damp homes, politicians enjoyed taxpayer-funded luxury.

"The government has made a political choice and refused to close windfall tax loopholes to raise the money needed to keep people safe and warm. As a result we are now seeing hospital admissions grow as the health complications of living in fuel poverty take hold for millions of the most vulnerable."

Sir Geoffrey Cox earned £2.19 million in his second job but claimed £145 for fuel. APillion

The energy crisis was triggered in October 2021, with energy watchdog Ofgem citing a 50 per cent increase in the wholesale price of gas.

The energy expense claims came after politicians were given a £2,200 pay increase last March, to bolster their average salary to £84,144.

Some of the Conservative MPs who claimed for energy also received record amounts on top of their salaries through second jobs.

These included Sir Geoffrey Cox, who earned £2.19 million in his second job but claimed £145 for fuel; Fiona Bruce earned an additional £711,000 last year but claimed £391 and Andrew Mitchell earned an extra £464,000 and claimed £114.

Ipsa said it was necessary for politicians to claim for heating expenses.

“Like the rest of us, MPs pay utility bills for their own homes,” it said.

“Ipsa pays utility bills for the accommodation of non-London MPs when they stay away from home, and for their constituency offices.

“This is to ensure people aren’t put off becoming an MP by the thought of paying a second set of utility costs — as well as utility costs for an office — on top of the costs for their own home.”

Updated: January 18, 2023, 6:25 AM
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