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Now travel freebies for MP's girlfriends!

india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 17:47 IST
Highlight Story

Indian and British parliamentarians perhaps stand on the same footing when it comes to ‘spending’ taxpayers’ money to their advantage. Both never miss an opportunity to extract the maximum out of the state exchequer!

While, recently an Indian MP from Chhattisgarh was caught "red-handed" by his wife while travelling with his "woman friend", the House of Commons in London has allowed travel freebies to MPs’ girl friends.

Yes, from now onwards, the parliamentarians’ women companions, other than their wives too, would also be entitled to free travel along with the MPs between London and their respective constituencies.

According to the Daily Mail, House of Commons’ leader Jack Straw has called for travel expenses that are currently guaranteed to MPs spouses to be extended to the unmarried partners also.

FreeAt present, the wives and husbands of MPs are only entitled to claim the cost of up to 15 first class rail journeys each year.

But, since the introduction a year ago of civil partnerships for gay couples, the House of Commons authorities have extended these arrangements to include MPs in civil partnerships.

The Government has now invited the Senior Salaries Review Board (SSRB), the independent body which reviews MPs pay and expenses to extend this to other unmarried partners.

The proposal is definitely going to benefit Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik hit the headlines last week after ditching TV weather presenter Sian Lloyd for 24-year-old Gabriela - whose single The Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum) made Number Two in December 2002.

The prospect of the pop star benefiting from free travel has raised eyebrows in Westminster.

He will soon be able to claim back travel expenses for Gabriela Irmia, who is one of the Cheeky Girls pop duo, to travel to and from his Welsh constituency and London, added the paper.

A single first rail class from Opik's Montgomeryshire constituency to London would cost around 140 pounds.

But, the new rule has attracted enough criticism from different quarters. Hugh McKinney from the National Family Campaign said: "It is bizarre that free travel at taxpayers' expense could be extended to what may be nothing more than a casual acquaintance.

Allowing free travel where there is an element of commitment through marriage or other means is one thing, but extending this perk to non committed relationship is quite another.

This could end up being a complete waste of money on people who end up being nothing more than a passing acquaintance in an MPs life."

Similarly, Corin Taylor, a spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: "At a time when we’re all being told that we've got to accept big fare increases, politicians are trying to sneak in a deal to get more free travel at taxpayers’ expense. Politicians genuinely seem to think that they are a special class of person that deserve to avoid the financial choices that everyone else has to make. People in normal jobs don’t get this, so why should the politicians?"

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