Former Prime Ministers Receive £6 Million from Taxpayer in 13 Years for Expenses
Following the disclosure that Boris Johnson and Liz Truss will be able to claim £115,000 a year, David Hencke discovers Tony Blair made highest claim on the public purse, and Theresa May the lowest
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The Cabinet Office has paid out more than £6 million to six former prime ministers and one deputy prime minister in 13 years to cover their office expenses, the Government has revealed.
Liberal Democrat peer Chris Rennard asked for these costs following the disclosure that both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, the latter of whom served as Prime Minister for just 50 days, are both entitled to claim up to £115,000-a-year from the taxpayer under the Public Duty Costs Allowance.
“Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are entitled to claim up to £115,000 a year for as long as they say they are doing public duties, which may be for the rest of their lives,” Lord Rennard said. “This is in addition to MPs’ office costs allowance, which is subject to some public scrutiny, unlike the ex-prime ministers’ allowance. They are also able to earn from speeches, books and newspaper articles. Is it not time that we had a proper review of these allowances, reduced it for sitting MPs and made it for a fixed period only?”
The scheme was set up by John Major in 1991 following the resignation by Margaret Thatcher after she struggled to handle letters from the public and needed staff support. At that time the allowance was much lower, only rising to £115,000 in 2011. The figures for how much individual former prime ministers claimed were kept secret until 2009 – and the figures are still only available from 2009. Thatcher claimed £387,830 from 2009 until her death in 2013.
The largest claimant since 2009 is former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has received £1,478,003, closely followed by John Major who has claimed £1,477,633. Blair has claimed the maximum available sum every year since 2011 and Major has claimed almost the top sum every year. Gordon Brown has claimed £1,325,577.
As for more recent leaders, David Cameron has claimed £603,811 since his resignation, with his claims varying from £50,000 to £113,423. His deputy, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, claimed almost the full allowance from 2015 to 2018 – claiming £444,775 in total before leaving Britain for a highly-paid job at Facebook (now Meta) in the US.
The lowest level of claims from the fund come from Theresa May, who has claimed £172,751 over three years – with claims varying from between £34,836 and £80,083. She, unlike the others, still gets her £84,000 salary as an MP and can also claim parliamentary allowances. May has likewise earned millions of pounds from speaking engagements since her departure from Downing Street.
According to Cabinet Office Minister Baroness Neville Rolfe, neither Johnson nor Truss have put in a claim for money under this scheme so far.
Baroness Rolfe also defended the system, responding to Lord Rennard by saying: “the Public Duty Costs Allowance assists former prime ministers who remain active in public life. The allowance is not paid directly to former prime ministers; rather, claims may be made from the allowance to reimburse incurred expenses that arise from the fulfilment of public duties, such as office and secretarial costs. The allowance has been frozen at an annual limit of £115,000 since 2011. The Government keeps these matters under review.”
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