Commons Leader Mark Spencer sits next to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor via PA Media)
The leader of the House of Commons has said there is “bigger fish to fry” when quizzed about MPs claiming their heating bills on expenses.
Mark Spencer was asked if it was right that MPs can expense energy bills on their second homes amid the cost of living crisis.
Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss and former cabinet minister Matt Hancock are among MPs who have charged energy bills to the public purse in the last few years, according to Open Democracy.
Under the expenses system, MPs are allowed to claim for utility bills at their second homes if their constituencies are outside London.
Good Morning Britain host Adil Ray asked Spencer: “If you had another home, that apparently you can claim your expenses and there’s no upper limit to that, is that right?”
Spencer replied: “So, I think if you have a second home - which I don’t - you can claim energy bills I think.”
Ray applied the thumb screws: “But do you think at a time like this, a national crisis, a global challenge, when MPs are on £80,000 a year, they should be able to claim that with no upper limit?”
Spencer said: “Well, I think actually there are bigger fish to fry here.”
Ray interrupted him saying: “Oh so it’s OK for us to pay your expenses, but you don’t have a plan to help us pay our bills?”
The Tory MP hit back: “No no no. Not at all. I think that there are much bigger challenges to be focused on here for the country and for the whole world to solve the challenges that we face than to go down that rabbit hole of MPs’ expenses.”
'Is it right that MPs can have their energy bills paid for via expenses and there's no upper limit, so they won't be affected by the high rise of bills?' - @adilray
Mark Spencer MP says 'there are bigger fish to fry here' and 'there are much bigger challenges to be focused on.' pic.twitter.com/prGJNUOV06
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) August 11, 2022
Ray went on to tell the MP for Sherwood that people were facing big challenges trying to pay for heating, bills and food.
Spencer, who is backing Rishi Sunak for Tory leader, said he was trying to talk about the challenges people were “genuinely concerned about”.
According to an Open Democracy report in April, MPs had charged taxpayers £420,000 for energy bills on their second homes over three years.
Government ministers were among the 405 MPs who had claimed expenses for their heating bills since April 2019.
They included foreign secretary Truss, two senior Treasury ministers, and even a minister from the department for energy.
The latest row comes as annual energy bills are forecast to top £4,200 from January.
It has triggered warnings that Britons face “serious hardship on a massive scale” without government intervention.
Ministers have said they are working on a new cost of living package to put to the next prime minister.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.