Tuesday, February 27

John Bercow spent £172 on a journey costly travel arrangements of Commons Speaker



John Bercow fought back a tear as he paid his own tribute to the former Lib Dem leader John Bercow spent £172 on a journey of less than a mile, figures released by the House of Commons have revealed.

The cost of the 0.7 mile journey was disclosed in receipts published following a Freedom of Information request that expose the remarkable cost to the taxpayer of the Speaker’s travel arrangements.

Mr Bercow took an official car to travel to Canterbury to see Archbishop Justin Welby enthroned in 2013 at a cost to the taxpayer of £524.

A journey of 1.8 miles to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral set the taxpayer back by £158.

And the cost to the public purse for the Speaker to travel to the University of Bedfordshire to give a lecture on reforming Parliament following the “adapt or die” moment for MPs following the expenses scandal was £367.

The expenses were revealed following an FOI request from the Press Association.

Mr Bercow was accused of an “obscene waste of money” by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who said it revealed “appalling judgement”.

However a spokesman for the Speaker insisted he was “always mindful of costs” and travels in standard class and stays in hotels that “offer value for money”.

Other findings include:

•In April his transport bill to a dinner organised by charity Stonewall at the Dorchester Hotel – 1.5 miles (2.4km) from Parliament – was £144.

•A one-way drive from King’s Cross station to Speaker’s House after a day trip to Leeds in July 2013 cost £168.

•He kept a chauffeur driven car waiting while he attended a memorial service for former minister Malcolm Wicks in Croydon, south London in October 2012 – costing £289 for five hours.

•The Speaker had a Foreign Office car pick him up at Manchester Piccadilly station after travelling up to attend the funeral of Labour MP Paul Goggins in January last year. It ferried Mr Bercow and a staff member around “as directed” at a cost of £298, before they stayed at the Park Inn Radisson hotel in the centre of the city.

•The following day, it took Mr Bercow and two staff members to the service in Salford, waiting and dropping them back to Manchester Piccadilly at a further cost of £276. In total, the Speaker and his staff ran up expenses of nearly £1,300 attending the service.

•Mr Bercow and an aide charged 299 US dollars (£192) for dinner while staying at the five-star Strand hotel in Rangoon during an official visit in the summer of 2013. The hotel’s website says it offers “grand colonial splendour”.

•Long distance calls totalling 63 euros (£44) were made from Mr Bercow’s room during a visit to Vienna in May 2013.

A spokesman for the Speaker said: “One of the Speaker’s duties is to represent Parliament at home and abroad. The Speaker attends funerals and memorials for former parliamentarians as both a mark of respect and as a representative of his parliamentary colleagues.

“Additionally, the Speaker is committed to encouraging public engagement with Parliament and regularly visits universities, charities and other organisations around the UK to explain the work of the House of Commons.

“The Speaker is always mindful of costs, and travels standard class in the UK and when away from home, stays in hotels that offer value for money.

“In some instances a car service is required to facilitate timing requirements. In line with the Speaker’s commitment to greater transparency details of these costs have been published on a quarterly basis since 2013.”

But TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign director Andy Silvester said: “This is an obscene waste of money and shows appalling judgment from whoever made the arrangements.

“Hugely expensive chauffeur-driven travel and costly meals abroad don’t look good when this Speaker was elected specifically to improve the reputation of Parliament in light of the expenses scandal.

“It is impossible to comprehend how some of these bills have spiralled to such a degree and questions must be asked.

“This money doesn’t grow on trees – it comes straight out of taxpayers’ pockets, and it must be treated with more respect.