Rt Hon Priti Patel MP Statement on Social Media Fake News on Expenses Claims
Over the weekend a number of posts on social media have referenced an online post which states: ‘Priti Patel’s enormous expenses make her the most expensive MP in Parliament.’ This claim is false and incorrect, as well as presenting a distorted impression of the expenses system for MPs.
The report states that the author has “…fact-checked this – it’s very simple and you can do it yourself by visiting this web page – and it shows that in the financial year 2017-18 she pocketed £152,672.15…”
It also commented that: “Priti Patel’s expenses claims may make her the most expensive MP in Parliament, taking home more money than the prime minister Theresa May received in her salary.”
There are a number of false claims made in these statements.
First, assertions that I am “the most expensive MP” are completely false and fake. This information is in the public domain on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) webpages, where it is possible the search the claims made by each MP: https://www.theipsa.org.uk/mp-costs/your-mp/.
Any search would produce up to date and accurate details of all expenses which are related to actual expenditure and costs undertaken for the MPs work, including staffing and administrative costs.
Second, expenses that are claimed in relation to my role as a Member of Parliament go through a vigorous and independent control process organised by IPSA. These relate to expenses incurred to support my role as an elected Member of Parliament. The largest share of the expenses in the 2017/18 financial year was £117,831.30 for staffing costs. This is the salary costs of employing staff to support me in my role as Witham’s MP, including helping vulnerable constituents in need of help and assistance who contact my office. This covered more than 77% of expenditure.
The other main items of expenditure included office costs and travel. The 2017/18 financial year also included additional costs associated with the impact of the General Election, when due to Parliamentary rules my staff were unable to work from the offices I have on the Parliamentary estate in Westminster. The report and posts online do not explain what expenses are used for and the systems in place to monitor and regulate the expenses system for MPs. They therefore present a distorted impression of expenses claimed.
Third, the report is wrong to claim that I am “…taking home more money than the prime minister…” As referenced above, the majority of the overall expenses claims cover staffing costs. In the case of other expenses, these are paid to suppliers to cover expenditure that is typical for an office to incur and to reimburse costs incurred. The claim that I am “taking home more money than the prime minister” is therefore false and untrue.
It should be noted that by comparison to other MPs, my expenses claims are not irregular and nor are they uncommon. A search of neighbouring MPs and other MPs in Essex and the Eastern Region shows that the expenses claimed by me are not particularly high in comparison. In comparing my claims to those of colleagues, I do not make any judgement on the expenses claims made as their claims and the necessity of those expenses would have gone through the same IPSA process. Moreover, when comparing expenses between MPs it is important to be aware that there can be differences between how MPs run their offices, organise their staff and the office and travel related expenses they incur.
However, the facts clearly demonstrate that the expenses claims attributed to me do not make me the “most expensive MP in Parliament” and as such the story circulating on social media is false, incorrect and could be described as being ‘fake news’.
I am certainly not the first MP to be subject to such false and misleading claims. This is also not the first time I have been the subject of such false claims and during the 2015 General Election campaign the Labour Party apologised to me after making misleading statements of this nature.
I believe that it is always important that the expenses system is transparent and effectively regulated, especially following the fallout from the 2009 expenses scandal. The public need to have confidence in the expenses system to improve trust in politics and being able to freely discuss and debate this issue is important.
However, it is disappointing that there are some people abuse the right of free speech to spread false news stories and make fake and distorted claims. It would also appear that some of the people responsible for circulating these false and misleading claims have political motives for doing so and are putting their own political prejudices above facts and the truth. Not only does this mislead and misinform the public, it also means that I have to spend time refuting these claims and responding to people who have contacted me after being misled by them rather than responding to the many other important cases and issues that I am contacted about.
I trust that this statement provides the facts on this issue and that anyone considering circulating these false and misleading claims about my expense will consider the facts, evidence and details of this statement. I shall be reporting these false statements to the social media organisations hosting these false statements.
The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
Member of Parliament for Witham