MPs claimed £1.6 million on first-class train travel since 2017, using a loophole to avoid rules meant to keep them in standard class

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MPs claimed £1.6 million on first-class train travel since 2017, using a loophole to avoid rules meant to keep them in standard class
Sir Geoffrey Cox MP Leon Neal/Getty Images
  • MPs have claimed for more than £1.6 million in expenses on first-class train tickets since 2017.
  • Guidelines discourage first-class travel, but allow it if cheaper than a standard fare bought on the day.

MPs claimed more than £1.6 million in expenses for first-class train travel since 2017, analysis by Insider has found.

Expense details published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) show that 314 MP made 17,664 claims for train journeys in first-class between April 1 2017 and March 31 2021.

Some of those who claimed are no longer MPs.

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Parliamentary authorities cracked down on first-class travel by MPs after the expenses scandal of 2009. But the change fell short of a total ban, and buying first-class tickets is still possible by using a loophole in the rules.

IPSA - Parliament's expenses watchdog - limits rail fare reimbursement to the price of an "anytime standard open" ticket, generally the most expensive way to travel in standard class.

In these situations MPs are almost certainly choosing not to save money by purchasing the equivalent standard-class ticket. It is possible but rare for only first-class advance fares to be available.

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So by purchasing other types of ticket - such as off-peak or advance ones - MPs can still travel first class so long as it doesn't exceed the anytime open rate.

Campaigners say MPs should choose the option with the best value for money for the taxpayer, who foots the bill.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, told Insider: "Parliamentarians mustn't pamper themselves with premium train journeys if it incurs additional costs for taxpayers.

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"If MPs can get organised to order a first class ticket in advance, they should usually be able to get standard class cheaper.

"Most people are happy to travel standard class, and these tickets are almost always better value for money."

Guidance from IPSA advises MPs that they should "consider value for money when purchasing tickets which they may need to change at short notice.

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It says "MPs should exercise discretion and balance low cost, generally inflexible, tickets against the probability of cancellations and the charges they will incur."

The 15 MPs who claimed the highest amount received a total of £415,142.55, accounting for more than a quarter of the total bill.

Among them is the Tory MP Geoffrey Cox, the former Attorney General facing staunch criticism for his highly-paid work as a legal consultant in the British Virgin Islands and Mauritius.

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Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle also appears in the top 15 claimants, with £27,284.43 claimed for 215 claims.

This graph shows the 15 largest claims:

MPs claimed £1.6 million on first-class train travel since 2017, using a loophole to avoid rules meant to keep them in standard class
Data from IPSA

Insider calculated the figures by filtering IPSA expense claims for MP's travel categorised as "First", "First - Single", or "First - Return".

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Some details on MPs expenses has been removed by IPSA following the murder of Sir David Amess, as part of a security review.

Thursday 18 November is meant to see the publication of the next tranche of how MPs are spending the public purse, but an IPSA spokesperson told Insider that it had been delayed until 2022.

They were unable to provide any further detail on when publication might occur, or the status of the review.

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There is no suggestion any of the MPs have broken the rules.

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