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But I will always be open and transparent, and fair, about my expenses. This is why:
In my duties as MP, I want to give Harlow and the surrounding villages good value for money. It is important to make a distinction between the money spent on staff, and the running of the office, and the individual private expenses of the MP.
Below is correspondence showing what the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority have authorised for helping me with my walking disability, for personal expenses, and also for all the costs involved in running an office in both Westminster and Harlow.
But I will always be modest and reasonable in my claims.
I welcome the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), as it ensures that all my expenses are approved by an independent body, out of the immediate control of MPs.
Below is an explanation in detail, both of the office budgets and on my expenses:
1. OFFICE Budget
A) Staffing Budget The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority give all MPs a staffing budget of £144,000 to pay for salaries, National Insurance contributions, and pension costs. This money goes directly to employ staff. The money is spent on two full-time staff in Parliament and three part-time staff in Harlow.
I do not employ any family members as staff.
B) Office Budget The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority gives MPs a £24,750 budget to rent and run a Constituency Office. We have been able to do this economically, as we have a good deal in the Kao-Hockham building. We were also able to buy second-hand office furniture and so make some considerable savings. This budget also permits the ordering of printed paper, stationary, computer database and the like.
We do not claim for newspapers.
We have not used this Budget to pay for this website, and have instead set up the website independently. On a couple of occasions, we have used a very small amount of money to pay an internet technician for technical support. However, we have repaid this money to IPSA because we want the website to be entirely independent of the taxpayer.
From the Office Administration Budget, we also pay for three smartphones / email machines for the office (two for staff, and one for myself). These are used constantly for emails, Internet on the move and to make numerous work-related calls to local residents and my office.
The same Budget also pays for a mobile SIM-card that goes in a laptop, to enable me to do my work on the move. This includes speeches and emails to constituents.
C) Computers The House of Commons provides MPs a maximum of five computers and two printers for running their office. We have three computers in Parliament and two in the constituency, for replying to emails and dealing with casework, with a printer in each office. We have bought three additional laptops, over the last two years, so that every member of staff is able to have a computer. These have been bought from Currys in Harlow, saving the taxpayer hundreds of pounds, as buying them through the House of Commons costs almost double the price.
2. PERSONAL EXPENSES
The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority gives MPs expenses regarding accommodation, travel and food.
FIRST MEDICAL LETTER
From: MADAN, Ira
Date: Tue, 25 May, 2010 at 17:02 PM
To: Teresa Ruewell
Cc: HALFON, Robert
I assessed Mr Robert Halfon MP last week regarding his disabilities in relation to his work as an MP, both within the palace of Westminster and in his constituency.
Mr Halfon has been disabled since birth and I have received a report from his specialist. His disability affects his legs only. He is unable to walk unaided and walks with one or two walking sticks. He is able to walk a maximum of 300m at a time and less in the afternoon/ evening as he tires. He is unable to climb stars and uses a stair lift at home. He is able to drive short distances and for short periods of time (30-40minutes) and is registered disabled.
As far as his parliamentary duties are concerned he would have difficulty with the following:
1) Travelling from his constituency in Harlow to Westminster. He is unable to use public transport as he is not able to stand or walk the requisite time. He is not able to drive the 2 hour journey by road from Harlow to Westminster on a daily basis.
2) He will have difficulty walking to and from committee and meeting rooms around the Parliamentary estate.
I would advise that on medical grounds the following should be considered
1) He should be provided with a centrally located office in the palace of Westminster
2) He will need either assistance in being transported to and from his constituency on a daily basis or consideration should be given to him staying overnight in London for 3 nights per week
3) He should ensure that his constituency office has disabled access and parking very close to limit his walking from his car to his office to less than 100m
4) He may need a mobility device to assist his mobility around the parliamentary estate.
As you are aware, I am not at liberty to disclose medical details of his condition and it is not my role to recommend specific allowances.
As this is the first report that I am writing for IPSA, I would be very pleased to discuss with you. I am usually only at the House on Tuesdays but can be contacted on my mobile.
Mr Halfon is aware that I am writing this report to you and I have copied it to him.
Dr Ira Madan FRCP FFOM
House of Commons, Consultant occupational physician
SECOND MEDICAL LETTER
The Lister Hospital
Chelsea Bridge Road
London SW1W 8RH
Dear Dr Madan,
Re: Mr Robert Halfon (dob. 22.03.1969)
I am pleased to inform you of this gentleman’s medical problem. Robert was born with spastic diaplegia. This only affects his legs leaving his trunk and upper limbs unaffected. He has had multiple operations over the years. I undertook a distal femoral osteotomy on the 9th August 2006. This was to improve his walking. This has been successful to some degree, but has left him with nothing like a normal gait.
Robert’s walking capacity is limited to a maximum of five minutes only, and this is when his energy is good and early in the day. The physical effort of walking with such a poor gait means that he tires rapidly, and by the end of the day he is exhausted. To get himself ready in the morning is also a major undertaking and this, too, tires him. It also means he has to get up extra early.
I understand he has applied to you for some help with transportation and also the possibility of overnight accommodation. This would be extremely helpful to him. Driving at night when he is exhausted would be dangerous and therefore he will need to be driven. On other occasions it may be preferable for him to stay in London overnight, and therefore he will require help with accommodation fees.
Robert is an extremely brave and committed individual. I can confirm that in my opinion there is absolutely no question of him exaggerating his problem in any way. In truth, his behaviour is somewhat on the contrary in my experience of knowing him over the years.
I hope this is the information you require.
Andrew Williams FRCS (Orth.) FFSEM (UK)
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
Full details can be seen via the links above this letter. On Monday, and Tuesday nights particularly, the Commons sits late into the night, sometimes past 11pm or later. Staying in a hotel makes life a lot easier for me, as it would simply be too exhausting - because of my disability - to travel to and from Harlow often quite late at night.
I do NOT have a second home, as my only home is in Harlow.
I stay instead, in a small single room, in a local hotel.
The only expense I claim for is the cost of accommodation, and some food and drink at the House of Commons canteen if I am working late into the night, according to the limits set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Currently MPs can claim up to £150 per night however I choose to stay at this hotel because the cost at £98 pounds is very low compared to other local hotels around Westminster.
It has the added advantage that they allow me to store a few suits semi-permanently, and also help to carry cases, because of my disability.
I produce this table below to show you the costs of other nearby hotels.
COST PER NIGHT FOR A SINGLE ROOM
Club Quarters, Trafalgar Square
Best Western (Shaftsbury Hotel)
St Ermin's Hotel
The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority allow MPs to claim transport costs for an MP's Spouse to visit Westminster.
I DO NOT claim these expenses.
If my partner Vanda visits me (we live together in Harlow) we pay our costs ourselves.
The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority also allow me to claim petrol expenses for work-related travel around Harlow and the villages for community visits.
Because of my walking disability, the Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority also makes a modest contribution to petrol costs travelling from Harlow to Westminster.
The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority also allows MPs to claim expenses for train travel.
At the present time, I have not taken up this expense.
E) Food Allowance The Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority gives MPs a small expenses allowance for MPs to claim for dinner, ONLY when Parliament is sitting late.
Because Parliament often sits until 11pm or later into the night, I have no way of getting home to eat, so am compelled to buy food at the House of Commons canteen. I occasionally claim for this, most of the time well under the £15 which is allowed.
I do my best to give Harlow residents an excellent service as MP, and to give them good value for money. Unlike any previous Harlow MP, my expenses are 100% transparent and published for everyone to see on my website.
I have deliberately gone into detail around my expenses, so that people can judge whether I have fulfilled these principles.
Robert Halfon MP - Working Hard for Harlow.