STATEMENT ON PETER LUFF’S OFFICE AND TRAVEL COSTS IN ADVANCE OF PUBLICATION
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STATEMENT ON PETER LUFF’S OFFICE AND TRAVEL COSTS IN ADVANCE OF PUBLICATION

I am committed to complete openness of the expenses claimed by MPs. I have always made all claims in the expectation that they will be published. I hope to be able to place “redacted” copies of all my expense claims on my website soon. They will, in any event, be published by the House of Commons, probably in mid June. I welcome this unreservedly.
I had not anticipated the way in which the costs associated with maintaining my second home in connection with my parliamentary duties would be interpreted, as a result of which I was criticised.

I have sought, therefore, to examine my other two other main areas of expense claim - travel and office costs - and to address any likely questions that may be asked in advance.

Neither of these two areas of expense – travel and office costs – can reasonably be construed as conferring personal benefit on me and are all incurred in pursuance of my duties in Parliament and in my constituency.

1. TRAVEL COSTS

As my constituents would expect, I seek accurately to identify every mile I drive on Parliamentary business in each month and claim for the exact number of miles. I hope these claims speak for themselves.

2. OFFICE COSTS

As a busy select committee chairman, my office costs situation is rather more complicated than that of most other backbench MPs. My office staff all bear a significant additional burden as a result of my chairmanship but I receive no additional resources to service my committee work. This work is particularly extensive because of the wide ranging nature of interests covered by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

However, maintaining this activity and keeping in touch with constituents does involve some additional expenditure, particularly on information technology to produce letters and to maintain contact while I am on the move. I claim this expenditure from the office costs allowance, formally known as the Incidental Expenses Provision and now known as Administrative and Office Expenditure.
Like most MPs I maintain two offices – one in London and one in Worcestershire. The costs of running both come from this budget and the costs of maintaining the Worcestershire office are also met from it.

While the overall level of my claims on office costs appears to be in line with those of other MPs, I have had some specific costs within this total which I would like to explain.

2.1 PUBLICATIONS

Before the introduction of the Communications Allowance, now renamed Communications Expenditure, I paid for the maintenance of my website and for the publication and distribution of my Annual report from my office costs budget. In 2006/7 it cost £2,781 to design and print and £2,605 to distribute my report – a total of £5,386.

2.2 RESEARCH

I have allocated to this budget rather than the staff budget the costs of the additional research for debates and to investigate detailed policy issues raised with me by constituents provided by the Parliamentary Resources Unit (£3,877.50 in 07/08).

2.3 LAPTOPS, PC AND PRINTERS

In November 2004 I purchased an additional PC for use in my constituency office which I disposed of at the end of last year after four years of intensive use.

I have purchased two additional high volume laser jet printers in the period to enable me to deal effectively the high volume of letters that my office generates and because, sadly, the printers provided by the Commons have proved inadequate.

I have also purchased, over the four year period covered by the expenses about to be published, three laptops. One I initially used personally which I subsequently made available to my research assistant to enable him to work outside normal office hours. Another I purchased for my own use and now take away with me on all travel with my select committee and any other Parliamentary duties away from London. A third is based at my London flat to enable both me and my wife (who is my secretary) to deal with parliamentary e-mails whenever necessary.

2.4 REFRESHMENTS

I regularly hold meetings with visitors in my office and have provided them with limited refreshments - tea, coffee, biscuits, water and Diet Coke. The sums involved are modest and, I believe, appropriate when senior business people are visiting me in the Commons.

2.5 TAX ADVICE

MPs have additional tax forms to complete above and beyond the standard return, to deal with the specific complexities of our tax affairs. They are also dealt with by a special unit within HMRC. In recent years I have found it necessary to use specialist help for this work and have charged the additional sums to this allowance. The previous edition of the guidance on expenses to MPs (The Green Book) specifically identified this cost as a legitimate claim. However, I note the criticism recently of MPs who charge the cost of accountancy assistance to their office costs and, in view of the controversy, I am seeking guidance from the Fees Office before making any further such claims.

2.6 CONSTITUENCY OFFICE

My work means I need two offices – one in London, where one full-time and one part-time staff member are located, and a second office in Worcestershire for use on Fridays and in recesses where both I and my wife work, and where Julia used to work full time for over fourteen years,. This is located in my home.

One of the reasons we chose our home in 1992 was precisely because it already contained office accommodation with trunking for electricity and communications in two rooms attached to but separate from the rest of the building. One room is now used by Julia and any part-time or temporary staff we employ in Worcester and the other by me. My room is furnished entirely at my own expense, with one exception discussed below.

My office accommodation is therefore rent free. I have charged for necessary repairs and maintenance to as well as the other running costs (utilities etc) of the offices which are easily identifiable separately from the rest of the house. I emphasise that no improvements have been done to the office at public expense and only essential maintenance and running repairs have been claimed from the public purse.

This second office also incurs some additional equipment expenditure, for example on telephones, a fax machine and photocopier.

One unusual item in October 2007 recently was the purchase of a large rug to replace an old carpet. I sought specific authority for this purchase from the Fees Office. The old carpet was both life-expired and water damaged from a leaking radiator that it has proved impossible fully to repair.

Rather than put down another carpet, we opted for a rug that stops short of the skirting board and therefore the leak. This purchase should save the taxpayer money as it will not suffer water damage and should not need to be replaced for many years.

Overall, the taxpayer has clearly benefited from these arrangements as I have incurred no rental costs for office accommodation in over 17 years as an MP. My constituents have gained as the easy proximity of my office to my home has mean that both Julia and I regularly work on constituency business – telephone calls, dictation, emails and letters - on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year.
I believe I am right to be confident of my record in Parliament on behalf of my constituents, as the current extract from the “They Work For You” website below demonstrates. All my office expenditure supports that work and my committee work.

ENDS

Peter Luff’s Parliamentary record according to the They Work For You website, May 2009
• Has spoken in 41 debates in the last year — well above average amongst MPs.
• Has received answers to 45 written questions in the last year — above average amongst MPs.
• Is a member of 3 select committees (1 as chair).
• Replied within 2 or 3 weeks to a very high number of messages sent via WriteToThem.com during 2007, according to constituents.
• Has voted in 67% of votes in parliament with this affiliation — below average amongst MPs. (From Public Whip)
My voting record is below average because my select committee duties regularly take me away from the Commons - in recently, for example, I have made visits to Essex and Devon to examine post offices and to Lancashire and Birmingham to study the automotive sector. I also regularly attend meetings with business people in London and elsewhere away from the Commons. These other duties away from the Commons and the constituency create the need for additional IT support.


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