THE Pounds 2M SPEAKER; Outcry at Pension Pot Perks: Candidates Face Fresh Exes Flak

The Mirror (London, England), June 22, 2009 | Go to article overview

THE Pounds 2M SPEAKER; Outcry at Pension Pot Perks: Candidates Face Fresh Exes Flak


Byline: JASON BEATTIE

ONE of the frontrunners to be the new Speaker in the Commons would retire on a pension pot worth an estimated pounds 2million.

Tory John Bercow, 46, Labour''s Margaret Beckett, 66, and 67-year-old Tory Sir George Young are the main contenders to be elected to the role today.

But as he is at least 20 years younger than the others, a victory for him could prove expensive for the taxpayer.

Speakers rarely retire and if Mr Bercow stays in the job for 20 years he will amass substantially more than his rivals in salary and pension contributions.

The Speaker is paid pounds 141,866 a year - which includes an MP's salary of pounds 64,766.

This entitles them to a pension of pounds 40,000 a year in addition to the pounds 39,999 a year from their pension as an MP.

It has been calculated that funding Mr Bercow''s retirement would cost the taxpayer at least pounds 500,000 more than Mrs Beckett or 67-year-old Sir George Young, the other leading contender.

Compared with Lib Dem contender Sir Alan Beith, Mr Bercow will cost pounds 1million more - although Mr Beith has said he will not take the Speaker's pension.

The youngest person in the race, are also concerns on all sides about having a third Labour speaker in a row following Mr Martin and Betty Boothroyd.

All the main challengers yesterday faced fresh claims about their Parliamentary expenses claims. Mrs Beckett allegedly claimed almost pounds 11,000 in gardening expenses, including pounds 1,380 for plants, while Mr Bercow twice charged taxpayers for the pounds 480 cost of using an accountant to complete his tax return.

Mrs Beckett said: "We have always tried to make sure we are within the rules and procedures, and clearly what is regarded as claimable has changed over a period of time."

Sir Alan Beith, a Liberal Democrat, used his office expenses to pay for his secretary to work in his constituency during the 2005 general election campaign, at a cost of pounds 220 a week.

A spokesman for Sir Alan said: "Alan''s secretary continues to deal with constituency casework during the election when MPs are not allowed to use offices in the House of Commons, which is why she uses the constituency office. She does no election campaigning. The double payment was an error not previously spotted."

Mr Dhanda over-claimed for mortgage interest on his second home allowance at least twice. He said the allegation was wrong. Sir George Young claimed for the cost of a video camera to post clips of himself on YouTube.

He has also claimed the maximum second home allowance on his London flat over the past two years. He said the claim was "legitimate". In his parting shot as Speaker, Mr Martin yesterday lashed out at the "snobbery" of his critics.

SCANDAL Mr Martin, who was dubbed Gorbals Mick, said working-class Glaswegians were "too good to wipe the boots" of his detractors. He became the first Speaker for more than 300 years to be forced out of office after taking the blame for the expenses scandal. …

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