New MPs' new accommodation perks

After a campaign lasting months we really should provide a little light relief.

Perhaps a musical based on the main party leaders (provisional title: ‘Legally Bland’) or at least a line from a song to describe how many times the Cameron-Clegg-Brown trio mentioned housing during the campaign (‘but then again, too few to mention’)?

But, seriously, it seemed most useful to summarise another aspect of MPs and property – what they can claim for in terms of accommodation, in the new parliament.

To me, this all still sounds generous but remember it is far stricter than before the press exposed the size of claims last summer. When you hear the new MPs debating what they can and can’t do for buyers, sellers or the housing industry, remember that their new personal allowances connected with property are:

• Second Homes: Those MPs outside a 20-mile/60-minute radius of Westminster can claim up to £1,450 a month to rent a second home. Claims for gardening and cleaning are no longer allowed. Those existing MPs who win on Thursday and already own taxpayer-funded homes can continue claiming to fund those homes until August 2012;

• London MPs: Those MPs with constituencies inside the 20-mile/60-minute radius can claim £3,760 per year towards their housing costs;

• Capital Gains: It is not yet clear what, if any, measure will be taken against long-standing MPs whose taxpayer-funded homes from the ‘old regime’ will produce capital gains for them when they eventually sell;

• Grace and Favour Homes: Any minister with a grace and favour home will not be able to claim any accommodation expenses. This is a complete reversal of the old regime, where the full second home costs (then £24,000 a year) could be claimed;

• Co-Habiting MPs: MPs elected on Thursday and sharing rental accommodation (either because they are personal partners or simply flat-sharers) can claim no more than one and a third of an MP's accommodation budget in total. Under the old system, they could each claim the £24,000 second home allowance.

Remember too that the new regime includes a £10,394 annual communications budget, the £15 evening meal allowance, the travel allowances and the ability to employ a family member. Perhaps the right song for all of this would have been ‘Money, Money, Money’…or better still, given MPs’ status amongst the public, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’.

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