MPs defend claiming expenses for energy bills on their second homes
- Credit: IAN BURT
While some residents in East Anglia are struggling to keep their homes warm through winter some of the regions MPs are claiming hundreds of pounds to heat their second homes.
Figures were revealed yesterday which showed that South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss claimed £2,579.67 for gas and electricity at her second home while fellow West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham claimed £1,518.34 over the 12 months from March 2012 until March 2013.
But MPs have argued that they are within their rights to claim back their second home energy bills as they are required to do their job.
Mr Bellingham said: 'We pay energy bills on our main homes like our constituents and everybody else. It is for our second homes that we claim some of our energy bills back because we need them for work.
'If you stayed in a hotel you would be allowed to have heating and lighting.
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'I could stay in a hotel four days of the week but it would be substantially more expensive than buying a second home and claiming some things back.
'Of course I have every sympathy with people struggling to pay their energy bills. I strongly feel that energy prices should not increase at higher than inflation which they have been doing at the moment.
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'I can understand why people might baulk at the idea but if MPs had no expenses they wouldn't be able to live outside London and it would not be representative.
'After all the furore about MPs expenses we have an independent body called IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) which says what can be claimed for and how much.
'It is not like when MPs were able to decide how much they could claim for things themselves.'
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who was listed as having claimed £102, said: 'I don't claim anything at the moment, the figures must be from before June.
'Like any other job if you have to live somewhere else for work you can claim it back. If you have to stay in a hotel for work the company will pay for it.
'If MPs have to have a second home to work they will claim for it.'
Mr Lewis added that his claim would have come from earlier in the year when he had rented accommodation in London. He also said that many of the MPs who had not claimed would be from in and around London and therefore not required a second home. Other MPs who claimed included South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes who claimed £818 and South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo claimed £979.
South East Cambridgeshire MP Sir James Paice claimed £529 while Norwich North MP Chloe Smith got back £438. South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who claimed £643 said: 'I think MPs must obey the rules that are set out for them. I fully understand people in Norfolk who are struggling to pay their energy bills.
'Like many people in Norfolk I have to buy oil for my home and I am worried because I am going to have to find the money to buy 1,000 litres of oil. It is very difficult for everyone at the moment.'
In total 13 MPs from across the region claimed something back for energy bills on their second home while six MPs did not claim.
While some MPs have defended the claims a number could not be reached for comment.