MP’s expenses and other inaccurate claims

False claim about MP's groceries allowance

People often make claims to support their protest about something. Claims about tax avoidance, deaths, benefit fraud levels, or, on the other side of the political spectrum, claims about income, NHS spending, climate change etc. It is important to get facts right when making claims to protest about something because using a false claim to support your protest can wipe out any benefit from all the correct facts that you have claimed. The problem arises not just from a desire to mislead, but often from a complete failure to understand the claim and to check the facts, or the date on the information. In our efforts to make a political argument we often seize on a “fact” that we find and repeat it in a massive game of “Chinese Whispers” until it bears no resemblance to reality and is out of date anyway.

False claim about MP's groceries allowance

One such example is the idea that MPs routinely get £160 per week for groceries.It’s just not true. I have asked some MPS and they confirm that they do NOT get £160 per week for groceries. What is true is that MPs can claim for dinner if they are away from home late on parliamentary business or debating after 7:30pm in the House of Commons.

From the Parliamentary Standards Authority:

MPs can claim:

  • £25 per night for food and non-alcoholic drinks when travelling outside of the London Area and their constituency in pursuit of parliamentary functions
  • £15 per night for food and non-alcoholic drinks when the House of Commons sits beyond 7.30pm*

The typical amount that an MP might claim, in the rare circumstance of being away for five nights, is £125 for dinner out. If they have to eat out and aren’t living on kebabs while away then this is a likely cost. In normal circumstances they wouldn’t be claiming this at all. I’m not making any claim as to whether it is fair or not, just what the actual numbers are. (Also note that food in the Houses of Parliament is subsidised, a separate issue.)

The important point I want you all to take away from this is CHECK YOUR FACTS. If your claim is wrong, or even if it is nearly right, opponents will dismiss all your claims. I am guilty of this mistake too, but we should all try not to. Whether quoting benefit fraud rates or MPs expenses, find a trusted source and make sure you have the facts.


Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

8 thoughts on “MP’s expenses and other inaccurate claims”

  1. Checking facts? £25 per night over 7 nights = £175 if they wish to claim it yes? regardless if it is £125 £160 or £XXX it is still considerably higher than the amount of benefit a single unemployed person has to pay ALL heating and lighting bills plus any bedroom tax council tax or other penalties imposed upon them all from £71 per week. That sir is the fact that most wish to establish that MPs have no idea whatsoever how their joyful following of their leaders rhetoric is impacting on everyday folk.

    1. No, you miss the point. £160 is WRONG. Not true. False. OK, theoretically they could claim £175 in a week for 7 nights, but how often does that happen? MPs are not getting £175 every week.

      1. No they are not getting £175 every week but the option is there whilst those suposed scrounging feckless idle lazy bastards have to scrimp and save just to be able to live let alone try and get gainful employment as there is no allowance for travel to interviews(if there ever are any) so travel costs must also be taken out of £71. typical scenario now is rent/water rates £6.00 week electric £10 per week Gas £10 per week Internet access/phone to check for Jobs applications £4 week leaving £41 for food clothing travel most bus fares to attend interviews £4.50 so less than £35 week to provide food over 7 days = £5 + pennies per day.
        This coalition of condemnation are demonising the unemployed sick and disabled in order to turn every working family against them while they continue to feather their own nests. That is the real tragedy because aided and abetted by the media they are succeding in destroying what was once a compassionate nation.
        Worse is yet to come in April next year with introduction of the bedroom tax minimum £15 week and the council tax payment generally expected to be 25% meaning a further £5 per week off the same feeble amount of benefits so only £15 per week to feed themselves what do you think the reckless feckless idle unemployed will do then? crawl into a dark hole and DIE?
        No doubt the lack of police on the beat will be a deciding factor in the outcome of the forthcoming riots.

    2. Those expense rules are pretty standard for any employee of any company. Most importantly the money is not given for “grocery shopping” or the weekly shop as implied.

    3. The point is that if we resort to using arguments that are simply wrong to make our point, then the point is damaged. Our credibility is damaged, and people won’t taking the real substance seriously.

  2. Why compare the cost of eating out when away from home because of work, with the cost of groceries at home? It’s a poor argument that detracts from the real issue being whether benefits for those that have to claim them are adequate for their needs.

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