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Commons Speaker racked up £172 bill in chauffeur-driven car - travelling just 0.7 miles

John Bercow has been accused of "obscene waste" after racking up a £172 bill being chauffeur-driven to a conference just 0.7 miles (1.1km) from Parliament.

The Commons Speaker - and MP for Buckingham - also spent £367 taking a car to Luton to deliver a speech on how MPs were restoring their reputation after the expenses scandal.

Fresh details of Mr Bercow's travel costs have been disclosed following a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.

The details come at a difficult time for Mr Bercow. His private life has been in the headlines, with his wife, Sally, admitting she had been a "terrible wife" amid reports that she had an affair.

Commons Speaker John Bercow Credit: ITV News

Mr Bercow has been widely criticised for splashing out large sums on foreign trips - including visits to Australia, New Zealand, Burma, South Africa, the US, Finland and Austria.

But while the House authorities have previously published breakdowns of hundreds of thousands of pounds of his expenses since 2009, they have not always been complete.

In the wake of a landmark Court of Appeal ruling on the scope of FOI, Parliament has now supplied the individual receipts that were submitted over the past three years.

Among the material in the disclosure is:

:: Mr Bercow used an official car to travel to Canterbury to see Archbishop Justin Welby enthroned in 2013 - at a cost of £524.

:: In April that year he spent £172 taking a car to Carlton House Terrace - just 0.7 miles (1.1km) from the Commons - to open a conference on alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). A taxi fare for the round trip is likely to have been less than £15.

:: The same month his transport bill to a dinner organised by charity Stonewall at the Dorchester Hotel - 1.5 miles (2.4km) from Parliament - was £144.

::: A one-way drive from King's Cross station to Speaker's House after a day trip to Leeds in July 2013 cost £168.

:: Mr Bercow's car to Baroness Thatcher's funeral at St Paul's Cathedral, 1.8 miles (2.9km) from the Commons, cost £158.

John and Sally Bercow Credit: PA Images

:: In May 2013 there was a £367 bill for the Speaker to be driven to the University of Bedfordshire, where he gave a lecture on reforming parliament to ensure it was a "credible institution". "The expenses scandal proved to be an 'adapt or die' moment for Members of Parliament," he said.

:: He kept a chauffeur-driven car waiting while he attended a memorial service for former minister Malcolm Wicks in Croydon, south London, in October 2012 - costing £289 for five hours.

:: The Speaker had a Foreign Office car pick him up at Manchester Piccadilly station after travelling up to attend the funeral of Labour MP Paul Goggins in January last year. It ferried Mr Bercow and a staff member around "as directed" at a cost of £298, before they stayed at the Park Inn Radisson hotel in the centre of the city.

The following day, it took Mr Bercow and two staff members to the service in Salford, waiting and dropping them back to Manchester Piccadilly at a further cost of £276.

In total, the Speaker and his staff ran up expenses of nearly £1,300 attending the service.

:: Mr Bercow and an aide charged 299 US dollars for dinner while staying at the five-star Strand hotel in Rangoon during an official visit to Burma in the summer of 2013. The hotel's website says it offers "grand colonial splendour".

:: Long distance calls totalling 63 euro (£44) were made from Mr Bercow's room during a visit to Vienna in May 2013.

Mr Bercow is not believed to require an official car for security reasons, and the receipts indicate he has used commercial firms as well as the Government Car Service.

A spokesman for the Speaker said: "One of the Speaker's duties is to represent Parliament at home and abroad. The Speaker attends funerals and memorials for former parliamentarians as both a mark of respect and as a representative of his parliamentary colleagues.

"Additionally, the Speaker is committed to encouraging public engagement with Parliament and regularly visits universities, charities and other organisations around the UK to explain the work of the House of Commons.

"The Speaker is always mindful of costs, and travels standard class in the UK and when away from home, stays in hotels that offer value for money.

"In some instances a car service is required to facilitate timing requirements. In line with the Speaker's commitment to greater transparency details of these costs have been published on a quarterly basis since 2013."

But TaxPayers' Alliance campaign director Andy Silvester said: "This is an obscene waste of money and shows appalling judgment from whoever made the arrangements.

"Hugely expensive chauffeur-driven travel and costly meals abroad don't look good when this Speaker was elected specifically to improve the reputation of Parliament in light of the expenses scandal.

"This money doesn't grow on trees - it comes straight out of taxpayers' pockets, and it must be treated with more respect."

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MP claimed 9p for a 352-yard journey

The MP claimed 9p for his 352-year journey Credit: PA Wire

A Berkshire who claimed 9p on expenses for a 352-yard car journey has defended the cost, but admitted such small claims may look "odd".

Rob Wilson, Conservative member for Reading East and Minister for Civil Society, has made a number of claims for short journeys, with many coming in under £1, but said over the course of a year the mileage "does add up".

"I am a very active local MP and I get out and about to meet my constituents every week. Many of my journeys are over fairly short distances of a few miles, but with a number of visits each week, over a year the mileage does add up.

"I can see how small claims might look odd but it is important that all MPs do the job properly and stay connected with local people."

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Minister defends 9p expenses for car trip

Rob Wilson admits the expenses may look 'odd' Credit: PA Wire

An MP who claimed 9p on expenses for a 352-yard car journey has defended the cost, but admitted such small claims may look "odd".

Rob Wilson, Conservative member for Reading East and Minister for Civil Society, has made a number of claims for short journeys, with many coming in under £1, but said over the course of a year the mileage "does add up".

9p
Rob Wilson's expenses claim for a journey in March 2014, described as a "constituency engagement"
13p
Expenses claim for a 528-yard journey in his car to attend a business meeting

"I am a very active local MP and I get out and about to meet my constituents every week," Wilson told the Metro.

"'Many of my journeys are over fairly short distances of a few miles, but with a number of visits each week, over a year the mileage does add up.

"I can see how small claims might look odd but it is important that all MPs do the job properly and stay connected with local people."

Labour leader campaign heads to Brighton

Ahead of the Labour party choosing their new leader, a series of Hustings events will be taking place across the country.

This weekend, it's the turn of Brighton. The party welcomes everyone to come and put questions to the prospective leaders and you don't need to be a member. Andy Burnham is the current front runner, other contenders include, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall.

Whoever wins will have their work cut out. Labour got just two seats in our region in May's election, in Southampton and Hove. Phil Hornby reports.

Fox-hunting vote postponed as SNP say they'll vote against changes

Fox-hunting vote postponed after SNP say they'll join in vote Credit: PA

A vote to relax the fox-hunting ban in England and Wales has been postponed. It had been due to take place in the Commons tomorrow - but was delayed when Scottish MPs threatened to defeat the proposal which would allow an unlimited number of dogs to flush out a fox to be shot.

The plans had provoked fury among anti-hunt protesters - and reopened the debate into fox hunting, which was banned ten years ago.

Abigail Bracken has been looking at the arguments.

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What does the Budget mean for you? And after May's defeat, can Labour recover? Lively debate with Henley MP John Howell, Lib Dem Baroness Parminter from Sussex and Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead .....

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