Travel Expenses

The Travel Expenses of Ms Dorries need their own page..  As already stated previously, her travel expenses following the Telegraph expose dropped by over £6000 per year.. This could be explained by the new Green Book rules imposed at that time, living permanently in Mid Beds or merely her stopping taking advantage of the rules.. you decide..  in the meantime, this is a good read:

Taken from Liberal Conspiracy (written 17th May 2009 by David Reeves, Labour PPC for the 2010 election, following a personal attack by Dorries on David in the Beds on Sunday )

In May 2008 I referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner, Mr John Lyon, the question of whether the type and combination of expense claims made by Nadine Dorries MP (Con, Mid Beds) were within the rules (letter below).

This followed the concern of a constituent as to why Mrs Dorries claimed more in annual train and car expenses in 2006/07 (£12,005) than fellow Bedfordshire MPs Patrick Hall (£1,198) and Alistair Burt (£7,017).

In 2006/07 Mrs Dorries claimed £6,431 under section 5a car, and £5,574 under section 5c rail. The constituent was concerned that to have claimed so much for car expenses, under the rules Mrs Dorries would have needed to travel some 16,444 miles in the year, the equivalent of driving a 45 mile journey every day to all 4 corners of the large rural constituency, which would take at best 1hr 24 minutes (source: Google maps), in addition to her Westminster duties.

I therefore thought it reasonable, on behalf of my constituent to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner in order to verify the authenticity of the car mileage claims in accordance with the rules. The complaints concerning this and the second home allowance were completely rejected by the Commissioner and no rules were deemed to have been broken by Mrs Dorries.

Following the Commissioners verdict, I was surprised to learn that Mrs Dorries had publicly attacked me with exceptional ferocity in the local press. In one salvo she said, “I find his attack cheap, time wasting, grubby and sad. It is a shame as the previous Labour candidate conducted himself with courtesy and integrity.”

Now with my integrity having been called into question (I am, for the record, a former soldier who served with Military Intelligence in Iraq and an accountant for a leading university), I was surprised to read the accusation made against her by the Daily Telegraph and the four homes riddle in the Mail on Sunday.

I believe the original complaint was rejected because it was filed under the belief that Nadine Dorries had designated her constituency home in Bedfordshire as her main home (now known to be her second home). That would have meant that the combination of claims could have been incompatible with the rules.

In response to the Telegraph’s claims about her expenses, I believe the original complaint becomes significant again. I am therefore calling for the travel expenses of Mrs Dorries to be reviewed not only in light of the rules of House of Commons, but in light of public morality and public perception of value for money, particularly since her claims where so much higher than those of the neighbouring Bedfordshire MPs.

This is in addition to the questions of her housing claims by the Daily Telegraph.

I am also challenging Mrs Dorries to match my vow not to charge the taxpayer for our daily commute to London or our constituency home mortgage / rent. And I go further, in light of the economic difficulties, I vow not to take a pay rise during my term in Parliament.

* * * * * * *

(My original letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner)

Dear Sir,
I wish to bring to your attention irregularities in the expenses claimed in 2006/07 by Mrs Nadine Dorries, the member for Mid Bedfordshire.

Overview
Mrs Dorries claimed £6,431 under 5a car, and £5,574 under 5c rail. This is in addition to the £21,756 claimed for the cost of staying away from the main home. I believe that the combination of claims is incompatible with the rules as set out in the Green Book, and that the claims for rail, car and cost of staying away from the main home require authenticating due to their high and implausible values.

Rail Claim
Section 7.1.15 states that a member “may buy a season ticket to the Westminster area with your travel card if you make four return journeys per week during sitting weeks.” The claim of £5,574 is consistent with the £5,064 cost in April 2006 of a first class gold card from Flitwick station with underground zones (source First Capital Connect).

I would ask you to investigate whether in fact Mrs Dorries is eligible to claim a season ticket and meets the required number of return journeys per week during sitting weeks. I would also ask you to verify whether Mrs Dorries is indeed the user of the season ticket, or if it is actually being user by a member of her parliamentary staff (Cllr Peter Hand).

Cost of Staying Away from Main Home
Mrs Dorries is claiming the full allowance of £21,756 which according to the Green Book is to reimburse for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties.

Section 3.3.1 states the principle that Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.

I would ask you to investigate whether Mrs Dorries is correct in claiming the cost of a season ticket, when she is also claiming the full £21,756 for the cost of staying away from her main home. I would also ask you to investigate whether Mrs Dorries is obtaining value for money for the tax payer in her choice of London accomodation.

Car Claim
The £6,431 car travel claim is consistent with the inclusion of a £820 annual parking permit at Flitwick station (source First Capital Connect). Deducting this from the total claim, my calculations using the 40p for the first 10k miles rule show that Mrs Dorries could have claimed up to 16,444 miles in 2006/07.

This means that on average Mrs Dorries is driving 45 miles every day, 365 days a year, the equivalent of driving to all 4 corners of the rural constituency, (it is 48.3 miles from Woburn to Barton to Shefford to Cranfield) a journey which would take at best 1hr 24 minutes (source: Google maps).

Taking into account her full claim for the cost of staying away from her main home during the 35 weeks in which the House sits, the real mileage figure claimed per day whilst in the constituency would be substantially higher, and potentially implausible.

I would ask you to verify the authenticity of the car mileage claims in accordance to Section 7.3.2 that states that “a member who drives more than 350 constituency miles or more per month must provide a breakdown by date, destination, frequency and miles” and compare these records against the criteria of disallowed journeys listed under Section 7.1.5.

Summary
In summary I would ask you to investigate:
1. Whether Mrs Dorries is eligible to claim a season rail ticket.
2. Whether Mrs Dorries is indeed the user of the season ticket.
3. Whether Mrs Dorries is correct in claiming the cost of a season rail ticket, when she is also claiming the full £21,756 for the cost of staying away from her main home.
4. Whether Mrs Dorries is obtaining value for money for the tax payer in her choice of London accommodation.
5. The authenticity of the car mileage claims.

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