REVEALED: Chauffeur-driven cars, first class travel and hundreds of pounds in allowances without filing a single receipt: the truth about…

  • FOI requests by MailOnline reveal details of spending by UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
  • Tory tagged a week at a Turkish Discount Holidays © holiday resort with his wife on to a two-day fact-finding mission – and he wasn’t an MP at the time
  • Labour MP ran up an astonishing 2,700 travel bill to attend a meeting in France
  • Delegation has racked up nearly 700,000 of travel and subsistence costs in just two-and-a-half years

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Politicians have been indulging in first class travel, chauffeur-driven cars, and pocketing hundreds of pounds a day in tax-free allowances for attending obscure European conferences. Tory Robert Walter tagged a week-long stay with his wife at a Turkish Discount Holidays © holiday resort on to a two-day fact-finding trip last June – with his travel, hotel and subsistence costs coming to more than 1,200. Mr Walter was not even an MP at the time, having stood down from his North Dorset seat nearly three months previously before the general election.

Tory ex-MP Robert Walter tagged a seven day stay in Bodrum with his wife on to a two-day fact-finding mission to Turkey. He said he had organised the trip on his own initiative to investigate the migrant crisis

Mr Walter went on the trip to Turkey with his wife last June. The taxpayer picked up a 1,200 bill including nearly 100 on parking but he stressed he had not claimed for her costs

He insisted he had organised a trip to explore the migration crisis on his own initiative, and had not claimed expenses for his wife. Meanwhile, Labour s Michael Connarty racked up an astonishing 2,700 travel bill for attending a five-day conference in France in April last year. One hereditary peer received more than 410 in tax-free allowances for a one-day conference in Paris, without filing a single receipt.

Fresh details of hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) have been revealed in response to Freedom of Information requests by MailOnline. The Commons and Lords have supplied copies of the original receipts filed by MPs and peers attending sessions of the little-known talking shop. While there is no suggestion that rules were broken, the disclosure has raised fresh questions about whether spending is being properly controlled.

The information shows:

  • Peers are handed ‘subsistence’ payments of around 60 a day, and can claim for every five-hour period they are away. They get the money to cover meals despite breakfast usually being included in their hotel bills.
  • They also receive a separate daily allowance of 150 while at conferences, and are entitled to ‘travel days’ either side of meetings. Both payments are tax-free and do not have to be supported by receipts.
  • Former deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott travelled first class on the Eurostar to a five-day conference in Strasbourg last April, leaving the taxpayer with a 510 bill. He received more than 1,000 in tax-free allowances, even though he came home from the meeting a day early.
  • Mr Walter was still attending meetings of the assembly as late as September last year – six months after he stood down from parliament.His travel and subsistence bill for a one-day conference in Paris on August 31 was 1,048.
  • As well as First Class being routinely booked for Eurostar journeys, mid-haul flights are also frequently in business class. By contrast, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) does not allow expenses claims for anything above the cost of an economy fare.
  • Chauffeur driven cars are hired to ferry delegation members to and from their hotels at ‘plenary’ conferences in Strasbourg. The cost is around 3,000 for each of the four sessions held every year.

Coveted spots on the PACE delegation are handed out by the Prime Minister, with parties dividing up the places based on their representation in parliament.

The 18 full members and 18 ‘alternates’ racked up nearly 120,000 of travel and subsistence costs in the first six months of 2015-16, more than 270,000 in 2014-15, and around 298,000 in 2013-14. The authorities at the Lords and Commons said they could only supply receipts under FOI for a three month period – April to June last year – because it would be too expensive to retrieve the full information.

LABOUR MP’S 2,700 TRAVEL BILL FOR MEETING IN FRANCE

Michael Connarty racked up an extraordinary 2,700 travel bill for attending a five-day plenary in Strasbourg in April last year. He initially flew business class with Lufthansa from Edinburgh to Frankfurt on April 19 at a cost of 432.

Having seemingly made it from there to Strasbourg and spent the night in a hotel, the following day he was on a KLM Royal Dutch flight – again business class – to Schipol and then to Glasgow costing 735. On April 22 he was on the go again, flying BA from Glasgow to London City. On April 23 he went from London City to Schipol with BA for 290, switching to an Air France flight to get from there to Strasbourg – incurring a further bill of 346.

The taxpayer shelled out 144 euros for Mr Connarty to stay in a hotel in the Belgian city that night. He completed his travel marathon the following day by returning business class with KLM Royal Dutch to Glasgow via Schipol at a cost of 736. The total cost of Mr Connarty s travel was 2,766 and his accommodation and subsistence was another 286, according to parliamentary records.

Two weeks later Mr Connarty lost his Falkirk East seat at the general election to the SNP s Martyn Day, who secured a majority of nearly 13,000 votes. Mr Connarty hung up when telephoned by MailOnline for a response. Mr Walter and his wife travelled BA Club Europe Class from Gatwick to Milas airport, in the resort of Bodrum, on June 8 last year.

The return flights cost 945 in total according to the receipt, but he did not claim for his wife’s half of the bill. On June 14 Mr Walter flew business class with Turkish Airlines from Milas to Istanbul, costing another 230, where he attended the meeting of PACE’s ‘Ad-hoc Bureau’.

It is not clear whether he was accompanied by his wife on this leg of the trip.

Although the meeting is only listed as taking place on June 14 and 15, Mr Walter was booked into the Sheraton Hotel at taxpayer’s expense until June 17.

He flew back to Milas on June 16, before he and his wife returned to Gatwick – again Club Europe Class – on June 18.

The taxpayer met the 97 bill for valet parking their car with Meteor Meet and Greet for the whole period from June 8 to June 18.

Mr Walter stressed that he had not claimed for his wife’s flights, and denied that he had been ‘on holiday’ for the week before the conference.

‘The formal part of the visit involved meetings in Istanbul with Turkish government ministers and officials and then travel to south eastern Turkey (via Gaziantep) to visit several refugee camps and meet with migrants on the Syrian border,’ he said.

‘I chose at my own expense to include a visit to the Aegean region where migrants were making the treacherous crossing to the Greek Islands.

‘During that visit I had meetings with the Mayor of Bodrum and other local government officials. The House of Commons authorities were able to approve my plans as the total cost was less than if I had travelled direct to Istanbul for the formal programme.

‘Such arrangements are allowed for in the rules laid down by the House of Commons Commission.’

Mr Walter was still attending meetings of the assembly as late as September last year – six months after he stood down from parliament. His travel and subsistence bill for a one-day conference in Paris on August 31 was 1,048.

The 97 bill for parking the Walters’car at Gatwick

A Commons spokeswoman said: ‘Members of the PACE Delegation had a six month continuing mandate from the date of the general election when they continued as members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe even if they were not returned or did not seek re-election.’

The Earl of Dundee went to a one-day meeting in Paris on June 2 last year. He received two instalments of daily allowance, totalling 300, and subsistence allowance of 112 tax free without having to prove any spending. Records show he left home at 12.30pm on June 1 and returned at 6.30pm the following day. Breakfast was included at his taxpayer-funded hotel.

The Tory peer said: ‘Through writing reports etc, sometimes individual members may have to work through a further day beyond that of a scheduled committee.

‘The daily allowance for work by HL members at HL is 300. It is half that amount ( 150 ) per day for HL/ COE members when away on COE work.’

Michael Connarty racked up an extraordinary 2,700 travel bill for attending a five-day plenary in Strasbourg in April last year. He initially flew business class with Lufthansa from Edinburgh to Frankfurt on April 19 at a cost of 432. Having seemingly made it from there to Strasbourg and spent the night in a hotel, the following day he was on a KLM Royal Dutch flight – again business class – to Schipol and then to Glasgow costing 735.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott was among the delegation members who travelled First Class to meetings in Strasbourg

On April 22 he was on the go again, flying BA from Glasgow to London City. On April 23 he went from London City to Schipol with BA for 290, switching to an Air France flight to get from there to Strasbourg – incurring a further bill of 346. The taxpayer shelled out 144 euros for Mr Connarty to stay in a hotel in the Belgian city that night.

He completed his travel marathon the following day by returning business class with KLM Royal Dutch to Glasgow via Schipol at a cost of 736. The total cost of Mr Connarty s travel was 2,766 and his accommodation and subsistence was another 286, according to parliamentary records. Two weeks later Mr Connarty lost his Falkirk East seat at the general election to the SNP s Martyn Day, who secured a majority of nearly 13,000 votes.

Labour MP Michael Connarty ran up a travel bill of 2,700 to get to a conference in France

A House of Commons spokeswoman said: ‘Delegations such as the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe are a vital mechanism for inter-parliamentary debate and scrutiny.

‘Members of these delegations are committed to openness in their expenditure, and to ensuring value for money in claiming for accommodation, goods or services.

‘In accordance with Parliament’s commitment to openness and transparency in its use of public funds, we publish on our website details of the sums paid by Parliament to cover essential travel and associated accommodation costs of members of the UK delegations to Parliamentary Assemblies.’

A House of Lords spokesman said: ‘The Parliamentary Assembly is the deliberative body and the driving force of the Council of Europe, Parliamentarians from both Houses are appointed to it by the relevant House.

‘Members of the House of Lords play a vital role in PACE and it is important they are able to do so. Peers are not salaried.

‘As with other Parliamentary work away from Westminster, Peers can claim the reduced daily attendance allowance of 150 a day when they attend PACE. They can also claim a daily subsistence rate based on HMRC guidance for officials to cover meals and incidental costs.’

Dia Chakravarty, Political Director of the TaxPayers Alliance, said: Taxpayers should not have to pay for business class travel and pricey chauffeur-driven cars for politicians attending these meetings in Europe.

‘Their claims for these jaunts should be subject to the same standards of transparency as all their other parliamentary expenses.

‘The public will certainly be concerned to learn that seven years on from the MPs expenses scandal, the culture of politicians drawing on taxpayers cash without providing receipts has not yet been entirely eradicated.’

Ex-MP tagged week at Turkish Discount Holidays © holiday resort on to two-day fact-finding trip – and took his wife

Tory Robert Walter added a week at a Turkish Discount Holidays © holiday resort on to a two-day fact-finding trip – and took his wife along. He was not even an MP at the time of the jaunt last June – having stood down from parliament at the start of the general election campaign nearly three months earlier. Mr Walter and his wife travelled BA Club Europe Class from Gatwick to Milas airport, in the resort of Bodrum, on June 8 last year.

The return flights cost 945 in total according to the receipt, but he did not claim for his wife’s half of the bill. On June 14 Mr Walter flew business class with Turkish Airlines from Milas to Istanbul, costing another 230, where he was attending the meeting of PACE’s ‘Ad-hoc Bureau’.

It is not clear whether he was accompanied by his wife on this leg of the trip.

Although the meeting is only listed as taking place on June 14 and 15, Mr Walter was booked into the Sheraton Hotel at taxpayer’s expense until June 17.

He flew back to Milas on June 16, before he and his wife returned to Gatwick – again Club Europe Class – on June 18.

The taxpayer met the bill for valet parking their car with Meteor Meet and Greet for the whole period from June 8 to June 18.

Mr Walter stressed that he had not claimed for his wife’s flights, and denied that he had been ‘on holiday’ for the week before the conference.

‘The formal part of the visit involved meetings in Istanbul with Turkish government ministers and officials and then travel to south eastern Turkey (via Gaziantep) to visit several refugee camps and meet with migrants on the Syrian border.

‘I chose at my own expense to include a visit to the Aegean region where migrants were making the treacherous crossing to the Greek Islands.

‘During that visit I had meetings with the Mayor of Bodrum and other local government officials. The House of Commons authorities were able to approve my plans as the total cost was less than if I had travelled direct to Istanbul for the formal programme.

‘Such arrangements are allowed for in the rules laid down by the House of Commons Commission.’

Mr Walter was still attending meetings of the assembly as late as October last year – six months after he stood down from parliament.

His travel and subsistence bill for a one-day conference in Paris on August 31 was 1,048.

A Commons spokeswoman added: ‘Members of the PACE Delegation had a six month continuing mandate from the date of the general election when they continued as members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe even if they were not returned or did not seek re-election.’

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