AN MP has defended voting to maintain the present parliamentary expenses system, claiming a proposed replacement scheme would have cost taxpayers more.
Andrew Miller MP, Labour member for Ellesmere Port & Neston, said he backed the current Additional Costs Allowance (ACC) because, among other things, it allowed people from poorer backgrounds to be able to afford to sit in Parliament.
Mr Miller was one of the 172 members who voted for an amendment to a motion put forward by the Members’ Estimates Committ- ee, while 144 voted against.
The majority did not think the ACC should be replaced by an annual £19,600 accommodation allowance and a £30-a-day attendance allowance, or that MPs’ office, travel and personal expenses – subject to inspection by the Inland Revenue – should be handled by external auditors.
Mr Miller argued that having them scrutinised internally by the National Audit Office was the best solution, and said bringing in external auditors would increase the burden on taxpayers.
He added that last year under the present system, he claimed £17,727 for staying away from his main home in Helsby overnight while on parliament- ary business. But under the proposed new rules he could have claimed around £22,000.
“This would also have cost the tax-payers more,” he pointed out.
He said: “The ACA is essential to ensure people who are not extremely rich can become an MP.
“Yes, some people have abused this and we need sufficient transparency. People have the right to know what tax- payers’ money is being spent on.”
Mr Miller added that he is in the bottom third of MPs when it comes to the amount of expenses claimed.
The vote means MPs will still be able to spend £400 a month on food shopping, purchase items for improving their homes, and claim for items up to £25 without proof of purchase.
Stuart Penketh, the borough’s Tory prospective parlia- mentary candidate, said: “It is unbeliev- able that Andrew Miller would vote to keep a system in place that allows MPs to furnish a house from the so-called John Lewis list and expect the taxpayer to fund it.
“Many people accept MPs need a second home in London but that shouldn’t give them the green light to spend thousands while their constituents are suffering from massive hikes in the cost of living.
“I am afraid this suggests to me that Mr Miller is out of touch with the issues facing the people of Ellesmere Port and Neston.”