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FiveWelsh MPs in PS20,000 claim for first-class rail travel.

Byline: David Ottewell and David Williamson david.ottewell@walesonline.co.uk

FIVE Welsh MPs claimed more than PS20,000 for first-class rail travel last year - while spending just a fraction of that on standard-class tickets.

Exclusive analysis of thousands of expenses claims for 2016/17 reveal that nearly one in three rail journeys by British MPs at the taxpayers' expense were in first class.

Official guidance from parliamentary watchdog Ipsa - set up in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal - says politicians should "consider value for money" when booking tickets. MPs are still allowed to travel first-class if the cost of the ticket is cheaper than the standard-class 'walk-on' fare.

Since train tickets are usually much cheaper if booked in advance, MPs who want to travel first-class can generally do so if they plan ahead. They could, however, choose to save the taxpayer money by booking ahead and choosing a standard-class seat.

The expenses data for the 2016-17 parliamentary year shows MPs claimed a total of PS505,182 on firstclass train fares, and PS851,635 on standard-class fares. Some 30% of all tickets booked for MPs were in firstclass - up from 20% the previous year. So were 24% of the 775 train tickets booked for MPs' families.

Only 8% of the tickets booked for MPs' staff were in first-class, though.

The data reveals a total of five MPs who were more likely to book firstclass than standard-class seats.

They were headed by Guto Bebb, the Conservative MP for Aberconwy, who made 68 first-class claims worth PS5,622.60 - but only one claim for a standard-class journey.

David Jones (Conservative, Clwyd West) made 72 first-class claims for PS4,567.25, and eight standard-class claims. Mr Jones said: "All the claims were in accordance with Ipsa rules.

Madeleine Moon (Labour, Bridgend) made 30 first-class claims totalling PS4,120.69), and five for standard-class.

The others were Simon Hart (Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) with 25 firstclass claims (PS5,738.80) and five for standard, and Stephen Crabb (Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire) with eight first-class claims (PS1,768.80) and five standard.

Across the UK, the biggest individual claimer for first-class tickets was David Morris, the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale in the Lake District. He claimed a total of PS12,731.90 for first-class travel over the parliamentary year.

A total of 22 MPs only ever claimed for first-class tickets.

Eleven were Labour, 10 were Conservative, and was one a Lib Dem. That was former party leader Nick Clegg, who claimed PS2,679.10 for 48 first-class tickets while never claiming for standard class. Between them, those 22 MPs claimed just under PS75,000 on first-class travel.

Labour MPs are more likely to have constituencies in Wales or the north of England, which require longer periods on the train.

The data counts both single and return trips as a single ticket.

Some 211 MPs claimed for at least one first-class rail ticket in 2016-17. A further 293 MPs who claimed for at least one rail journey never used first-class. In Wales, that list was headed by Wayne David (Lab, Caerphilly), who claimed 70 times for standard tickets and never for first.

Other Welsh MPs who claimed at least 30 times for standard tickets, but never for first-class, included Stephen Kinnock, Nia Griffith, Mark Williams, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Ian Lucas, Stephen Doughty, David Hanson, Jo Stevens, Albert Owen, Nick Smith, Chris Evans, Owen Smith and Christina Rees.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 11, 2017
Words:579
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