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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."

Fareham MP will stand down at General Election

Credit: Mark Hoban

Fareham's Conservative MP, Mark Hoban, has announced today that he will be stepping down from Parliament at May's General Election.

After 14 years in Parliament I believe that it is time to start a new chapter in my life, so I have decided not to re-stand in May’s General Election. This has been a difficult decision but the right one. It is time to turn a new page and take on some new challenges.

It has been a privilege to have been the Member of Parliament for Fareham since 2001. In that time, together we have more than doubled the majority. I have been able to help thousands of residents with their problems. After a hectic week in Westminster, visits to our excellent schools and college, thriving businesses and vibrant voluntary sector always reinvigorate me. We have much to be proud of in Fareham.

– Mark Hoban MP


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DJ Fatboy Slim gets ready for his performance on the Terrace Bar of the House of Commons Credit: Jon Furniss/Invision/AP

DJ Fatboy Slim poses for the camera ahead of his performance on the Terrace Bar of the House of Commons in support of an initiative aiming to raise awareness of community music. Organised by the Last Night A DJ Saved My Life Foundation

Same sex marriage debate in the South

MPs are due to vote on plans for gay marriage this evening - a vote which has split political - and public - opinion. If passed the bill would allow same sex couples to marry in both civil - and some religious - ceremonies.

It's a step further than Civil Partnerships - and gives them the same rights as other married couples. Charlotte Wilkins has our report.


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