Midlothian MP among the most expensive in the UK

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson claimed more in business costs and expenses than most MPs in the UK last year, costing the taxpayer around £264,000 last year.

Stock photo of Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP) in the House of Commons.
Stock photo of Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP) in the House of Commons.

Figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority show the SNP MP's total business costs for the 2020-21 financial year were £264,347.14. The UK average was £203,880.

Mr Thompson, who was elected in December 2019, spent £219,200 on office running costs in 2020-21, including £184,800 on staff wages and £34,400 on other office expenditures. And he spent £33,100 of his accommodation budget (of £34,900), and a further £11,500 on travel and subsistence.

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Business costs are the essential costs incurred by MPs while carrying out their parliamentary duties including staffing, office costs and travel.

The IPSA figures also reveal the 276 individual claims made by Owen Thompson in 2020-21, with the most expensive single claim being for staff payroll – £173,173.54.

At the other end of the scale, the smallest one-off expense the 43-year-old claimed was 67p for to buy equipment. Additional information said this was for "Other office equipment".

Defending himself, Mr Thompson said: "It's important to note these business costs don't benefit me personally.

"The travel costs reflect my role as a Whip which meant I had to be physically down in London more regularly during lockdown, covering business and votes while the majority of MPs worked remotely from home.

"I also made sure I had a full staff complement in my Midlothian office to tackle the increased casework that the pandemic created. I think it's right to offer staff a real living wage that reflects the soaring cost of living - something I encourage every employer to do.

"I also chose to provide paid internships to create employment opportunities for young people during the pandemic, and an extra pair of hands to help with cases and support constituents during difficult times.

"My parliamentary record demonstrates my high work rate on behalf of the people of Midlothian. I am regularly amongst the highest ranking MPs in terms of parliamentary questions asked and debates attended and I hope that tells its own story."

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The total costs of MPs last year rose by four per cent, to £132.5 million, with almost £300,000 going on hotel claims for just 49 members.

The average cost of an MP was up 29 per cent, from £158,103, in 2019-20.

Kit Malthouse was the most expensive MP attending the Cabinet in 2020-21, with total costs of £244,312. This was compared to £178,406 for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and £168,109 for Sir Keir Starmer.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It’s important MPs have the resources to do their jobs, but many taxpayers will be worried about the soaring cost of politics.

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“The electorate expects politicians to stay grounded and keep costs under control, particularly given the Covid pandemic saw many MPs and their staff work from home.

“With taxpayers facing a cost of living crisis, politicians should be doing their utmost to keep their spending down.”

MPs cannot claim for personal costs, such as food and drink, during their normal working day, and all claims must be compliant with IPSA rules and accompanied by evidence.

MPs' costs are usually broken down into dozens of categories, with staff pay almost always the largest expense.

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Owen Thompson's five largest types of costs were:

1) Payroll – costing £173,173.54

2) Rent – £41,708.41

3) Pooled Staffing Services – £11,100.00

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4) Stationery & printing – £6,007.43

5) Mileage - car – £5,012.30