Scrutiny call over former PMs expenses

An SNP MP has called for public scrutiny of a little-known allowance paid to former prime ministers worth up to £115,000 a year.

While MP’s expenses are properly subject to scrutiny by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), claims under the Public Duties Cost Allowance are not published.

Parliamentary questions have revealed that over the last year Gordon Brown, despite poor participation levels in parliament, claimed £114,998.17 in addition to his parliamentary allowances, while Tony Blair – despite reputedly earning millions from business interests – claimed the maximum £115,000 as did Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart, who tabled the questions, said taxpayers had a right to know that claims are being used to support genuine public and charitable work and not to subsidise former politicians as they cash-in on lucrative lecture tours and directorships.

Mr Wishart said:

“As long as former prime ministers’ draw on taxpayer funded allowances their claims should be open to scrutiny. People have the right to know that any funds are being used to support genuine public and charitable work and not to subsidise former politicians as they cash-in on lucrative lecture tours and directorships.

“In the case of Gordon Brown, given his poor participation levels in parliament since losing the election, eyebrows will be raised that he is claiming both parliamentary and public duties allowances.

“MPs’ expenses have properly been put under the microscope, and that scrutiny should extend to the public duties allowance as well. Taxpayers have a right to know how this money is being spent and claims should be regularly published. It would seem sensible for administration and audit of this allowance to come under the umbrella of the independent parliamentary standards authority.

“David Cameron talks about transparency but, as someone who will benefit from this allowance, will he commit to shedding light on how this little-known allowance is being spent.”

Note:

Details of claims by former prime ministers can be found in Mr Wishart’s parliamentary question below:

Pete Wishart: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office (1) how much in public duty costs allowance has been paid to each former Prime Minister in each year since 1991; [112522]

(2) whether the Government has any plans to bring the public duty costs allowance within the remit of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority; [112526]

(3) what the limit is of the public duty costs allowance for former Prime Ministers; and when that limit was last reviewed; [112524]

(4) whether the public duty costs allowance is payable to former Prime Ministers who remain Members of Parliament in addition to their parliamentary allowances; [112523]

(5) what rules apply to claims made by former Prime Ministers from the public duty costs allowance; [112525]

(6) what audit is undertaken of claims made under the public duty costs allowance by former Prime Ministers; and what checks are made to ensure that claims against the allowance meet the criteria for funding from the allowance; [112527]

(7) what guidance is provided to former Prime Ministers on claiming from the public duty costs allowance; and if he will place in the Library a copy of that guidance. [112528]

Mr Maude: Information for the period April 1991 to March 1997 is no longer held. The current limit, which was last reviewed in 2011, is £115,000. The amounts paid in 2011-12 are as follows:
2011-12
£
Gordon Brown 114,998.17
Margaret Thatcher 109,191.00
John Major 115,000.00
Tony Blair 115,000.00

The allowance, which is a reimbursement allowance, is paid to meet the costs of continuing to fulfil public duties associated with the role of a former Prime Minister.

Former Prime Ministers are not eligible for the allowance should they hold the office of Leader of the Official Opposition. Claims are processed by the Cabinet Office and form part of the annual audit of Cabinet Office expenditure. There are no plans to transfer responsibility for payment of the allowance to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

By way of background:

The Public Duties Allowance (PDA) is a financial allowance, paid from the Cabinet Office to help former Prime Ministers to meet the continuing additional office costs which they are liable to incur because of their special position in public life. The allowance is not payable to a former Prime Minister occupying the position of Leader of the Opposition and therefore in receipt of “Short money”.

The allowance was introduced in April 1991. It was not subject to a resolution of the House but was announced by the then Prime Minster, John Major.