MPs watchdog apologises for telling MPs to claim Christmas party costs

MPs watchdog apologises for telling MPs to claim Christmas party costs

The MPs expenses watchdog has apologised for telling parliamentarians they could claim back some costs for Christmas parties.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Ipsa, a body created as a response to the MPs expenses scandal in 2009, had been widely criticised for its initial decision.

The guidance said MPs could claim the costs of food and refreshments for an office festive event as well as festive decorations for their office, but no claims are allowed for alcohol. Some MPs were subject to abuse over the guidance and lawmakers complained that the regulators had given the impression they had been clamouring to put food, refreshments and decorations for an office party on expenses.

After issuing the guidance a number of MPs contacted the body saying they had never made such claims in the past and had no intention of doing so in the future. Ian Todd, the watchdog's chief executive, said: We got the message wrong by allowing the impression that MPs were wanting to do, rather than our interpretation of the discretion available under the existing rules.

We are an independent body and we make our own decisions but sometimes we make mistakes, like everyone.

I would like to apologise to those MPs and their staff who have had to deal with phone calls, emails and abuse as a result of our guidance. They did not write the guidance or influence its contents. In issuing it, we didn't recognize the public mood at a time of severe economic and financial pressures. Labour MP Jess Phillips retweeted on Twitter by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, saying Ipsa had been irresponsible Just want to say no one asked for this, no one I know will use it, she wrote. The guidance was not made by MPs and yet we will be pilloried for it. I think it is irresponsible to issue this guidance as if MPs have been clamouring for it when I have never heard anyone do that. Conservative MP Maria Caulfield wrote on Twitter: Welcome clarification from Ipsa that MPs do not use public funds for Christmas parties. The leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, welcomed Ipsa's statement.

On Tuesday, Rishi Sunak s official spokeswoman told reporters: The prime minister certainly doesn't intend to use this, and his view is that MPs will want to justify all spending to their constituents.