It has been revealed that Commons speaker John Bercow spent £172 to be chauffeur-driven to a conference just 0.7 miles away from Parliament.
The journey from the Commons to Carlton House Terrace, which would have taken around 15 minutes to walk, would have cost less than £15 in a taxi.
Critics have accused Bercow of an “obscene waste”, though a source close to the politician insisted he was “always mindful of costs”.
Ironically figures released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act also show that Bercow claimed £367 for going to Luton to talk about how MP’s were restoring their reputations after the expenses scandal!
The Guardian reports:
His car to Lady Thatcher’s funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral, 1.8 miles from the Commons, cost £158, while he used an official car to travel to Canterbury to see Archbishop Justin Welby enthroned in 2013 at a cost of £524.
In April 2013, he spent £172 taking a car to Carlton House Terrace – just 0.7 miles from the Commons – to open a conference on alternative and augmentative communication. A taxi fare for the round trip was likely to have cost less than £15.
Bercow is not believed to require an official car for security reasons, and the receipts indicate he has used commercial firms such as Little’s Chauffeur Drive and WestOne Cars as well as the government car service.
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 following a request by the Press Association.
Revelations of Bercow’s claims provoked outrage and criticism on Twitter.
Among other claims, in 2013 Bercow claimed £144 for transport to a dinner organised by the charity Stonewall at the Dorchester Hotel, 1.5 miles from parliament.
A one-way drive from King’s Cross station to Speaker’s House after a day trip to Leeds in July 2013 cost £168 and 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”.
In January 2014, the Speaker and his staff ran up expenses of nearly £1,300 attending a funeral for the Labour MP Paul Goggins.
A Foreign Office car picked him up at Manchester Piccadilly station, ferried him 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 Bercow and two staff members to the service in Salford, waited there, and dropped them back at Manchester Piccadilly at a further cost of £276.
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.