Taxpayers' £250,000 bill for portraits of MPs

Portraits of Iain Duncan Smith and Diane Abbott cost over £20,000 in total. Photo: House of Commons

Portraits of MPs have cost the taxpayer around £250,000, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.

A painting of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith cost £10,000 while Labour MP Diane Abbott sat for a portrait charged at £11,750.

The figures came to light after an investigation by the Evening Standard newspaper.

Labour MP Diane Abbott as painted by Stewart Pearson Wright in 2004. Credit: House of Commons

Backbencher Dennis Skinner defended his decision to sit for a portrait, saying that it helped an out of work artist "get some work."

Iain Duncan Smith as painted by Paul Benney in 2004. Credit: House of Commons

The artworks were commissioned by the cross-party Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art - chaired now by Labour MP Frank Doran - since 1995.

Tony Blair sat for artist Phil Hale at Chequers in 2007. Credit: House of Commons
Richard Stone's portrait of Michael Howard cost £9,400. Credit: House of Commons

A Commons spokesman told the Standard:

The Parliamentary Art Collection at the House of Commons records those who have made a significant contribution to UK political life over the centuries and in each parliament the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art endeavours to update this record by adding to the contemporary portrait collection.

In recent years the annual budget for acquiring works of art for the collection has been reduced to reflect the need for savings in the current economic downturn.

This is part of the House’s drive to reduce its overall cost by 17 per cent by 2014-15.

– House of Commons spokesman
Minister Without Portfolio Kenneth Clarke's portrait cost £8,000. Credit: House of Commons
Lord Ashdown's 1995 portrait cost £2,000. Credit: House of Commons