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News Cov MP named in list of politicians who use first class rail travel the most.

Byline: DAVID OTTEWELL News Reporter

A COVENTRY MP features in a list of politicians who are most addicted to first-class train travel.

Expenses data for 2015-16 shows 4,587 of the 22,738 claims made by politicians for rail travel in 2015-16 were for first-class tickets, costing a total of PS417,360.

Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) made 79 claims for firstclass tickets at a total of PS6,403.

That was the fifth most of any MP in the country. Only a handful of MPs made more.

The list was headed by Simon Danczuk, the controversial MP for Rochdale, with 97 first-class claims.

Mr Robinson only claimed for six standardclass tickets in the same financial year, at a cost of PS156.80.

By contrast, Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East) claimed for just one first-class ticket in the same period, but 42 standard-class fares.

And Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) claimed for 33 standardclass tickets but none in first class.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Chris White (Warwick and Leamington), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford) and Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth/Southam) also did not claim any first-class fares.

Mr Robinson told the Telegraph he stays within the limits set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority but when asked why he chooses to travel first class he said: "I'm more able to work on the journey and travelling frequently I need to work, otherwise it's a waste of time."

He insisted he would still travel first class if he was unable to claim for the luxury and had used to travel first class before he was an MP.

Mr Robinson, who lives near London, said he has to travel both ways because he lives outside the constituency.

He said: "I'm official business advisor to the Coventry and Warwickshire growth hub which requires at least one extra visit to Coventry."

MPs also took a total of 1,398 business or clubclass flights at the taxpayers' expense.

The total bill was PS499,652.52p.

At the same time, they took just 983 economyclass flights at PS161,569.39p.

The analysis comes in the light of Jeremy Corbyn's 'traingate' affair - in which the Labour leader claimed he had to sit on the floor of a Virgin train because of overcrowding issues. Virgin disputed his account and Mr Corbyn later clarified he had been unable to find two unreserved seats together in standard compartments for him and his wife. Mr Corbyn is among those MPs who refuse to use first class, and in any case his 'traingate' trip was on party business and therefore not covered by the taxpayer. MPs are allowed to claim for first-class train travel on expenses when undertaking parliamentary business where the cost of the ticket is cheaper than the standard-class 'open' fare.

That is essentially the cost of a walk-on, 'on the day' ticket - and therefore it is often cheaper to book a first-class seat in advance. It would, however, in almost all cases be even cheaper to book a standard-class ticket in advance - leading to claims MPs are taking advantage of a loophole.

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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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