MPs have been offered an additional £10,000 each by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) – the body that audits expenses of those in the Commons – to pay for increased costs as they and their staff move to working from home during the lockdown.
But some have expressed distaste at the decision to give MPs more funding while employees in the UK face being furloughed at 80% pay and others have lost their jobs due to the impact of coronavirus.
As of 8.30am on Sunday, 135,192 people had signed the petition “A rejection of the MP’s £10000 corona virus ‘working from home’ allowance” on the Change.org website.
Lucy Pearson, who started the petition, wrote: “While the rest of us lesser mortals struggle to pay bills, navigate HMRC and for many, learn they are not entitled to any support whatsoever during these dark times, already financially stable MP’s are being given yet another perk.
“The extra budget can be used to buy equipment such as laptops and printers for MPs and their staff, or to cover additional electricity, heating and phone bills.
“The money, which comes on top of the existing office budget of about £26,000 a year per MP, will be available until next March.
“This petition is an opportunity for all of us to unite and to tell those in power that we’ve had enough of the gross inequalities that exist in this country.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle previously said it was incorrect to describe the as MPs handing themselves extra cash in a time of emergency.
“It is wrong to characterise this extra £10,000 allocated by Ipsa as MPs giving themselves additional funds,” he said.
“On the contrary, this money is being used to enable MPs’ staff to set up home working to support distressed constituents at a time of crisis.
“Many MPs have seen their casework soar as a direct result of coronavirus.
“Enabling staff to work remotely is the best and the safest way for them – and the constituents they are in contact with – to communicate and work together during these difficult times.
“The additional budget is there to draw down on if it is needed and required – and it will have to be accounted for in the usual way.”
Ipsa, set up in the wake of the expenses scandal, said: “Most MPs moved at very short notice from being based in Westminster, or in a constituency office, to working from home.
“Many staff were not set up for home working, nor for supporting constituents remotely.
“This additional funding is to help them make that transition, while they deal with a huge increase in workload from distressed constituents as a result of coronavirus issues.”
The petition follows renewed demands for Parliament to open again for business on April 21 as scheduled after its four-week Easter break.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she did “not know” if MPs would return as planned but new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has demanded a meeting with the Government next week to ensure questions can be put to ministers about their handling of the Covid-19 crisis.