More than a quarter of MPs have charged first class rail travel to the taxpayer in the past year, it emerged today.
An analysis of MPs' expenses by The Sunday Telegraph found that 185 had claimed for first class train tickets.First-class travel has been curbed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), brought in after the 2009 expenses scandal to sweep away the previous discredited regime.
However, it is still permissible in circumstances where it would be cheaper than buying a standard open ticket.
The extent to which MPs are taking advantage of that rule was revealed after Chancellor George Osborne faced ridicule after entering a first-class carriage yesterday with only a standard ticket.
According to The Sunday Telegraph, some of the first-class ticket claims have cost as much as £300, five times as much as the cheapest standard fare for the same route.
MPs who have travelled first-class on expenses, according to the paper include:
- Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
- Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude
- Transport Minister Norman Baker
- Shadow chancellor Ed Balls
- Former chancellor Alistair Darling
Ipsa's guidelines on travel expenses suggest MPs should consider "value for money" and whether cheaper, inflexible tickets will end up costing more if travel arrangements change at short notice.
"You can claim for first class travel if it is less than the cost of a standard open fare," it states.
First-class tickets purchased far enough in advance can end up cheaper than open standard tickets bought shortly before the journey.
Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull east, has defended the use of first class tickets by MPs.
In several tweets he told ITV News that MPs 'rarely' purchase first class tickets: