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Watchdog to launch crackdown on MPs taking business class flights

Parliament’s spending watchdog is to launch a crackdown on business class flights after MPs spent thousands of pounds travelling in style to European destinations over the past three years.

In future, MPs will have to provide evidence their journey did not cost any more than a standard ticket booked at the same time.

The guidance will come into force later this year, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said.

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Before 2017, MPs could make a maximum of just three European journeys a year, either to national parliaments or European Union institutions.

But that year the rules were relaxed to remove the cap.

Trips were also permitted to any destination in Europe, as long as the purpose of the visit was parliamentary.

But a recent analysis of expenses claims by IPSA shows MPs spent £1,944 on business class air travel to Europe over the past three years.

IPSA, which was set up in the wake of the expenses scandal in 2009, said it did not have evidence to show “whether these flights were within the rules, as we do not know what the cost of a standard class ticket would have been”.

However, IPSA has chosen not to try to reclaim any of the money, saying it was unable to retrospectively check prices.

The watchdog also found that the information submitted by many MPs did not allow it to ascertain the purpose of European travel claims.

An IPSA spokesperson said: “IPSA plans to update the evidence requirements later this year to help ensure good value for money. This will apply to European and domestic flights”

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It is understood that acceptable forms of evidence under the new system could be as simple as a screen grab showing which flight was the cheapest.

The new reforms come just months after IPSA clamped down on the use of parliamentary credit cards.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “IPSA are right to introduce more transparency and controls into MP’s airfares.

“Taxpayers get fed up with paying for politicians’ expensive flights, so these changes will give welcome clarity on any possible justification for flying business class – or simply see costs come down.”

Earlier this year, IPSA announced that MPs would face tougher sanctions for misusing taxpayer-funded credit cards.

It followed the revelation that 377 MPs, including nine cabinet ministers, had had their official credit cards suspended for breaking the rules on expenses since 2015.

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