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Members (Travel Expenses)

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he will make a statement about refunding expenses incurred by Members of Parliament and Peers when travelling by road on parliamentary duties as an alternative to the present arrangements for travel by rail, sea and air.

Yes. Following representations from hon. Members there have been discussions between the Authorities of the House and the Government. It has been agreed that the time is ripe to alter the existing arrangements by which the reimbursement of travel expenses incurred on Parliamentary duties is confined to journeys by rail, air, and sea, and it is proposed accordingly to make it possible for certain expenses of journeys by road to be claimed as an alternative. The appropriate Resolution will be laid before the House shortly.It is intended that the scheme should cover only those journeys in the triangle Westminster-home-constituency for which provision is already made under the existing rail, air and sea scheme, and that the maximum amount that may be claimed should be the cost of the corresponding first-class railway journey. While the Resolution to be laid before the House will be in general terms, it is proposed that the expenses claimed should be confined to the petrol costs personally incurred in the use of private cars, and that these should be assessed on mileage by the most direct route and the average fuel consumption of the car used. Details of the scheme will be made available to Members individually by the House Authorities as soon as possible.As payments in respect of this allowance will be cash allowances paid to salaried officers, they will, in accordance with the ordinary Income Tax rules, be liable to tax to the extent that they relate to journeys between Members' homes and Westminster or between their homes and their constituencies.If the Resolution is approved by the House in time, it is proposed that the scheme should come into operation when the House resumes after the Whitsun Recess.The cost of the scheme cannot be closely estimated until the extent to which Members make use of it is known and the extent to which it will be used in substitution for journeys by rail. It is not, however, expected that it will add a substantial proportion to the cost of the existing scheme. A Supplementary Estimate would be submitted as necessary later in the year.It has been agreed that this principle should appropriately be extended to Members of the House of Lords and that the arrangements of the two Houses should be brought as closely in line as the differing circumstances permit. This will be provided for in the Resolution to be submitted.